Thole: Deeg, Kuenster provide season-long battle of the titans

By GEORGE THOLE – Stillwater Gazette

The stage was set last spring when our Cassie Deeg and Cretin-Derham Hall’s Celia Kuenster tied for medalist honors at the girls’ Class AAA state golf tournament. What resulted from that finish is the promise of more good things to happen between now and June 12-13 at Bunker Hills.

Kuenster is currently first and Deeg fourth in the golf coaches association state rankings. The Minnesota Golf Association rankings, which considers course difficulty and other factors in addition to scoring average, lists Deeg numero uno and Kuenster in the No. 2 spot.

Ponies standout Hailey Boner, who placed 12th at state last year and has accepted a scholarship offer to play at North Dakota State, is ranked among the top dozen players in both polls.

It’s not often that the top two returning golfers in the state are pitted against each other on a weekly basis, which happens regularly in the Suburban East Conference. Deeg has been medalist four times and Kuenster three so far this spring.

The locals have been winning conference matches by an average of nearly 19 strokes or better – which is more impressive when you consider those are nine-hole matches.

"This is the best team I’ve coached," 32-year veteran coach Mike O’Rourke said on Sunday.

You know I’ll quote you on that, I shot back.

"OK," he responded.

I’m not about to argue with his success, especially after the Ponies won seven straight matches before placing seventh at the prestigious Red Wing Invite on Tuesday. O’Rourke’s resume has state titles in 1986 and 1987 and last year’s state runner-up finish among 11 state tournament appearances. His charges have placed among the state’s top three on five occasions.

Before Deeg, O’Rourke’s highest state individual placers were Sonja Simpkins ’86 and Kelly Schwartz ’88, who each finished third. Paige Bromen placed sixth in 2004 and I’m sure there have been others who finished in the mix.

Deeg, Boner, Alex Zeuli and freshman Erin Thiets make up the top four in the lineup with sophomores Amanda Wolf, Anna Nelson and Anna Kaul waiting in the wings.

Deeg leads conference players with a 36.2 average for nine holes with Kuenster next at 36.4. Abbie Mozzetti of White Bear Lake stands third with 40 while Boner (40.4) and Thiets (41.5) round out the top five. When you consider that three of the top five golfers in a formidable conference represent the Big Red Ponies of Stillwater, that’s saying a taste.

Down Memory Lane

with Jerry Foley

Fear of failure is an all-too-common factor that often leads to low self-esteem. In turn, such a low level of self-esteem results in subpar performances. Overcoming this fear of failing is a step in the right direction when developing a winning attitude. Positive self-images and high expectations, combined with continual reinforcement, are important aspects when creating a winning formula. Mindset and mental toughness can be developed to a degree, where they play a major role in the equation of success.

A "winner" will never lose sight of victory and will treat a loss as merely a temporary setback. Mediocrity should not be a word in a coach’s vocabulary. Anything short of all-out effort, enthusiasm, hustle, and total involvement by players and staff alike is unacceptable.

The path to success is steep and difficult to conquer. While getting to the "top" can be a major battle, staying there is even tougher. A fine line separates success from failure. The winning formula demands continuous attention from everyone involved – coaching staff and players alike – to establish and maintain a winning tradition. A successful program can crash and burn in a single season if attention is not paid to the minute inner workings of a team’s essential systems.

Complacency, apathy, or resting on a team’s laurels are certain to reduce a successful program to one of mediocrity. Staying abreast and keeping up to date on any and all changes in the game, along with careful analysis of data from past seasons, are critical factors in the maintenance of a successful program. Attention to detail, both during the season and in the offseason, is required to sustain success, along with strong work ethic and dedication by the entire staff.

Today’s Sports

Trivia Question

Name the former Ponies three-sport athlete who was a wide receiver at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

In the huddle

Leading sluggers for the Ponies (10-6) softball team are Allison Eder-Zdechlik hitting at a .423 clip with 12 RBIs and freshman Carlie Hart next with a .353 batting average and Natalie Gerber with a team-high 15 RBIs. Junior pitcher Hannah Heacox (9-3) has a 1.89 ERA with 111 strikeouts and Rachel Rhode is also enjoying pitching success…. The answer to Today’s Sports Trivia Question: Tommy Thomsen ’89 was a wide receiver for the Air Force Academy under coach Fisher DeBerry after a fine career at SAHS. Thomsen was an all-metro quarterback who led the 1988 Ponies (11-2, conference and section champs) to the state semifinals. Their only losses were to state champion Blaine. Tommy was a starting guard on the 1989 boys’ basketball team (19-8 conference and section champs), which placed third in the state. In the spring of 1989, he managed a 21-7 1/2 leap in the long jump and a 44-6 1/2 effort in the triple jump. Lt. Col. Thomsen and his lovely wife, Sherene and children Conor, 6, William, 4, and Brooke, 2, reside in O’Fallon, Illinois. While on active duty, our guy was the pilot for Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. He’s currently a pilot for Southwest Airlines. We have to admit that Tommy has done pretty well since leaving SAHS…. Complaints and alibis, where do they come from? More important, how does a parent react to a young athlete who makes excuses when things don’t go their way during competition? We know that in most cases, kids enjoy participating in sports and they do like to win. This is especially true when they get older and scoreboards reflect what happened. Like the players, coaches also like to win and their jobs often depend on it. Coaches and players alike quickly learn that failing to achieve their goals isn’t as much fun. Everybody wants to win, but that isn’t always in the cards. I’ve always believed that defeat is not final unless the loser despairs. Don’t bother to make excuses because nobody really cares – just be better today than you were yesterday and the victories will follow. It’s often been said that the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get. A coach must keep a sharp eye on the athletes’ grades and learn to cope with sometimes angry parents and alumni. While attending to these and many other demands on his/her psychological skills, the coach wants to win, because coaching success is often defined in terms of the coach’s win-loss record. Some might say that winning isn’t important, but tell that to your doctor, lawyer, salesman, policeman, or whoever. Winning is an attitude! My advice to all athletes and coaches is that if you want to be a champion, then get to work. Get better, or get beaten…. Here’s one for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: The Stillwater thinclads had four runners (Tom Linner, Wayde Hall, Sean Bjork and Eric Colvin) finish under 4:25 in the mile at Friday’s Edina Invitational. Veteran coach Scott Christensen also reports a staggering 27 runners who have run under 11 minutes in the two-mile this season…. finis

Today’s rumination #566

It’s a good friend who praises you when you are not there.