Hill-Murray in rebuilding mode this season

Venuta returning after top-15 finish in state meet

The traditionally successful Hill-Murray boys golf program will be evaluating several newcomers during practices this spring.

The team lost some key players to graduation last year and is in the process of adding new players to its lineup before the first meet in April.

Head coach Kris Oftedahl said, “We return four players who had varsity experience last year. Among those coming back is our No. 1 player [Henry Venuta] from last year who was a state qualifier.”

Venuta and Frank Seiler have been named the captains for the 2015 season.

Venuta was named All-Conference last year and placed third in Section 4 Class 3A playoffs. He finished in the top 15 in the boys Class AAA state meet.

Seiler was an All-Conference honorable mention shot-maker last season.

When looking at the coming season, Oftedahl stated, “We lost three of our top four players from last year’s team. All three of them were All-Conference players.

“Our team depth is not what it has been, so we will be relying on a lot of younger players to step up and provide that depth.”

Oftedahl then glanced at the Metro East Conference (MEC) and said, “We should contend along with state qualifiers from last year. St. Thomas, Hastings and Mahtomedi retained quite a few good players, as well as Simley and Henry Sibley.”

That looks like the MEC may be pretty well wide open as far as picking someone to finish on top of the heap.

Among those Oftedahl and assistant boys coach Paul Otto will be looking at to fill in the missing spots include, seniors Bryce Blinkhorn, Austin Powell and Joe Schmidt. Juniors Sam Carlson and Rory Scanlan also are hopeful of gaining a spot in the starting lineup. They will have to contend with sophomores Sam Long and Jack Jurgeson, along with freshman Matt Driscoll and seventh-grader Ben Warian.

The Pioneers are scheduled to open the season April 12 at 9:30 a.m. with a 10-team invitational tournament at the Troy Burne Golf Club in Hudson.

They open conference action April 15 at 3:15 p.m. with Henry Sibley and Tartan at Tartan Park Golf Club in Lake Elmo.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at wwakefield@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7820.

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