The job no longer includes two NCAA Division I players at the top of the lineup, but Nathan Schwarz remains excited and optimistic about taking over the Stillwater girls’ golf program.
Schwarz, a history teacher at SAHS, was recently named head coach for the Ponies, who have placed among the top three at state each of the past three seasons. He takes over for 32-year head coach Mike O’Rourke, who retired after last spring’s runner-up finish at state.
“It’s been a very successful program here and seen as a sense of pride throughout the community,” Schwarz said. “I’d just like to continue that success and build on the foundation that’s been laid.”
The Ponies will miss recent graduates Cassie Deeg, the 2011 individual state champion who is on scholarship at Nebraska, and former all-state performer Hailey Boner, who is a freshman competing at North Dakota State University. Stillwater also graduated all-conference performer Alex Zeuli from a team that was undefeated in conference play and won the section meet by a whopping 35 shots last spring.
The cupboard isn’t bare and the Schwarz said he expects the Ponies to remain competitive this spring and into the future. Erin Thiets, Anna Kaul and Amanda Wolf are players returning with state experience.
“We’ve got some returning state experience girls and I think our top four will be able to compete with anybody in the section,” said Schwarz, who is also the Stillwater sophomore boys’ basketball coach and a ninth-grade football coach at Stillwater Junior High.
Schwarz graduated from Hortonville High School in Wisconsin — a town of fewer than 3,000 people located near Appleton — in 2000. He first attended UW-Green Bay before transferring to and graduating from UW-Oshkosh, which does not field a men’s golf team. This is his fourth year at Stillwater after previously teaching at Medford. He also previously served as an assistant coach for the Ponies under O’Rourke, whose teams qualified for state 12 times and won state championships in 1986 and 1987.
“I think he does a very good job coaching in other sports,” Stillwater Activities Director Ricky Michel said of Schwarz. “He’s enthusiastic and comes with a lot of energy and I know he’s a very good teacher. He has a very solid golf background and I think the most impressive thing is the way he handles kids and I think he’ll be successful.”
Expectations will remain high, but you can bet opposing teams will be eager to unseat the Ponies in the conference and section.
“There’s no doubt, we realize that we walk around with a bulls-eye on our back after the success of the last four or five years,” Schwarz said. “There will be some programs that relish the opportunity to come after us. We’re not the underdog and I don’t think we ever will be and that’s the mentality I want our kids to have. It says a lot about the Stillwater community and our high school when they want to beat Stillwater. I think that’s great and they’ll be better for it and we’ll be better for that.”
Schwarz has already lined up some familiar faces to assist with the team, including Peter Deeg who is slated to return as an assistant and veteran coach Don Gettinger, who is also expected to return following a one-year hiatus. Schwarz has also recruited teaching colleague Mike Kaul to help out with the program.
“We want to not only compete, but be successful,” Schwarz said. “Winning section titles and going back to the state tournament is success. We want to see some results, but we’re going to make it fun for the girls and it’s going to be a great experience. We’re going to have a great time, but we want to teach them the game and we want the scores to go lower and see some tangible success.”