Photo by Theo Tate
Brandon Merz (left) and Gavin Grote are the only seniors on the Granite City boys’ golf team this fall.
The Granite City Warriors boys’ golf team has a small senior class this season.
Gavin Grote and Brandon Merz are the Warriors’ only seniors. Still, they have been valuable members of a Granite City team that finished its dual-match season last week with a 10-5 record.
“We only have two seniors, but the two seniors that we have are pretty good scorers for us,” Granite City coach Jeff Ridenour said. “We’re expecting to be building a program and getting stronger.”
Merz has been playing with the Granite City golf program all four years. He also plays hockey in the winter and baseball in the spring.
“Brandon has been pretty steady,” Ridenour said. “He started off a little slow, but he worked on his game and got some new irons and he’s been posting some low scores and has been scoring for us on a regular basis. He’s also a baseball guy for me, so I’m pretty proud of him of figuring things out and hopefully, he continues on and keeps giving us some good efforts out there.”
After playing with the Granite City junior varsity soccer team during his freshman year, Grote joined the Warriors’ golf team when he was a sophomore.
“I lived out here (near the Legacy Golf Course) basically my whole life,” Grote said. “I would see people golfing and I started trying it out and I really liked it and that’s what made me want to play.”
Last week, Grote and Merz played in their final home high school golf match at the Legacy. They helped the Warriors beat Civic Memorial and East Alton-Wood River in a triangular match.
Ridenour said he was pleased that his team finished with a winning record this fall.
“It’s been nice,” said Ridenour, whose team was scheduled to play in the Class 3A Edwardsville Regional on Tuesday at Oak Brook Golf Course. “It doesn’t compare to my first year when we went to the state tournament, but it does give me a lot of confidence from the past couple of years that I’ve been the head coach. We’re starting to get some guys dedicated and working in the offseason and it shows.”
Grote and Merz are part of a Granite City team that has five juniors, two sophomores and one freshman.
“I like playing with all of the juniors,” Grote said. “They can look up to us and hopefully they can bring out some better scores next year.”
Merz added, “Everybody expects you to do the best since you’re the senior. Everybody looks up to you.”
Grote had plenty of golf experience before joining the GCHS program in the 2013 season.
“I played basically my whole life,” Grote said. “I stayed at my grandpa’s house all of the time and he would always take me out here (at the Legacy) and go hit on the range.”
Grote’s best highlight this season was shooting a 77 at the O’Fallon Panther Classic on Sept. 18 at Tamarack Golf Course in Shiloh.
“I shot a 77, one stroke from getting a medal,” Grote said. “But I was pretty happy with how I played. That was the first time I broke 80 and I was pretty excited about that.”
Merz, who started playing golf when he was 9 years old, said he was looking forward to playing his final high school golf season this fall.
“I was practicing all summer at least two or three times a week and trying to improve each week and get ready for the fall season,” Merz said.
Ridenour said Merz has improved tremendously from his freshman season.
“He’s always had a smooth swing,” he said. “From day one, he’s always had a nice golf swing. It just took him a little bit to figure out to manage a course and keep the ball in play. He went through a spurt there where he’s been going through a slice period, then he’s working back to where he’s able to manage the course a lot better now.”