Deerfield needs new approach to return to state

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DEERFIELD — Deerfield’s boys golf team has every intention of returning to the state tournament in October. This time, it plans to use a different formula.

In 2013, the Warriors won their sectional and ended a banner season with a 10th-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament. Deerfield had an unquestioned leader in Ian Kelsey, the 2012 individual state co-champion.

“When you have a player like [Kelsey], it’s easier to believe he’ll be on par and the other guys can climb on board,” Warriors coach Jeffrey Fishbein said.

That’s how Deerfield played the state series a season ago, and it worked. In 2014, the Warriors are no longer reliant on one alpha dog. In the team’s first six dual-meet victories, three different Warriors have earned medals.

Fishbein said the parity helps the Warriors win tournaments and fosters a competitive practice environment.

“When you know on any given day you can be a medalist, it gives everyone more incentive to be that guy,” Fishbein said. “When that guy is not defined and any one of five or six guys, more reason to practice harder and give more of a team effort.”

Eric Bagg is one of four current Warriors who competed at the 2013 state tournament. He medaled at the rain-shortened Lake County Invitational Aug. 25 and Saturday, at the 25-team Wheeling Invite, he fired an 81 to help Deerfield to a fifth-place team finish (Loyola and Barrington tied for first).

Bagg said after a slow start, the team is getting comfortable with the new normal.

“With not having Ian, its more of a challenge, something to work towards,” Bagg said. “We have to push ourselves to work harder and give us a good mindset.”

The evenness of Deerfield’s roster revealed itself at Wheeling. Junior Jacob Krugman led the team with a 3-over 75, followed by junior Sam Gascoigne’s 78 and senior Jack Dickman’s 80. At Deerfield’s invite, held at Twin Orchard Country Club in Long Grove on Sept. 6, Krugman and Bagg each carded top-10 finishes (Deerfield finished in third place behind winner Barrington).

“With that competition and all the good players there, that was our best tournament thus far,” Bagg said of the invitational that also featured Lake Forest, Loyola, New Trier and Stevenson. “Everyone the whole day was at the top of their game. It was a good way to compare to state.”

State is, with each passing tournament, becoming more top-of-mind for Deerfield. The regular season is over. Up next is the Central Suburban League tournament to be held at Glencoe Golf Club Oct. 2. Then it’s regionals Oct. 7.

There are plenty of practice days ahead for this Deerfield team as it prepares for another run at the state tournament.

“We need to get into the mindset to get downstate as a team, playing in the present and not getting ahead of ourselves,”Bagg said.

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