A lot of scenery will have changed for the Milton girls golf team from the previous year. New coaches, no state champion. But the team is in a good place to continue the success of the last few years.
Kirk Wieland coached the team last season along with being the boys coach, but stepped down last week. Instead, former Milton golfers Ashton Stair and Brady Farnsworth have been named co-coaches for the upcoming season.
“Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of guidance from Kirk and Andrea (Wieland), who were the past coaches,” Stair said. “And kind of helped us shape our thoughts and our scenes on how the season is going to be.”
“I think we’re both definitely really excited to get started and take on what Milton has had in the past, especially with girls golf,’ Farnsworth said. “We’ve been very successful. And we want to continue that.”
While neither have high school coaching experience, they’re accomplished golfers in their own rights. Stair — who played Division 1 golf at Southern Illinois University — was a state champion during her time at Milton. Farnsworth still competes competitively, winning the Milton City Tournament this year for the second consecutive year.
“I had the opportunity to help out with junior lessons while I was kind of around the Milton area, so that I think will definitely help me going forward,’ Stair said. “But from a high school coaching standpoint, this will be a new experience for us both, but we’re confident that we’ve had the experience and we have mentors in Kirk and Andrea that will help us get our way through and get the ball rolling.”
“As far as golf coach experience, I haven’t helped with any lessons like Ashton has, but I continue to play competitive golf,” Farnsworth said. “So I know a lot about golf, but this is definitely a new experience for me. I’ve helped out with varsity basketball and the basketball program, which has nothing to do with golf, but as far as coaching experience, it’s not that I don’t have any.”
The most notable absence from the roster will be Mia Seeman, the reigning state champion, who graduated and will be competing at South Dakota State this fall.
“She definitely left a mark on the program and we’ll definitely miss her, but it’s nice to have Claudia, her sister, returning and hopefully to follow in her footsteps and give us another great run at this Milton success,” Stair said.
The Red Hawks will also be without Holly Gunnink, another graduated senior.
“She was a really solid player for us,” Farnsworth said. “Definitely we’ll have a little void there but we’re hoping that some of these other girls can step up and fill those roles. And obviously with somebody like Mia as a state champ, that can be hard to do, but we think we’re in good hands and it should be a good season.”
Milton still has a handful of players returning.
“Taylor Hakala and Claudia Seeman, both very high potential, both have had great success the last couple of years. I think they will be good leaders for some of our JV players who will kind of be moving up in a role. There definitely is some talent from JV that I think could contribute to our team,” Stair said.
With little time to get things moving — the coaches were brought in last week and the team has only three days of practice before their first meet — Stair and Farnsworth said they’ll do what they can and adjust as they go.
“That’s the challenge of this all,” Stair said. “Finding out we were coaches a week ago, having to make a plan and formulate what we’re going to do, meet the girls. That’s a big start.”
Stair said that, barring weather, the team would do qualifying for their varsity squad and that there’ll be “a little bit of tweaking as tournaments come and go.”
To further the quick start, the team will have four meets within a week, something Stair said can happen in August.
“I know that being the season starts at the end of the summer, they all kind of load on tournaments and invites when they don’t have school so there’s not as many classes that they have to miss,” she said. “So, it’s typical for there to be a lot. I don’t know how typical it is for there to be an event Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday like we’re coming in to, but that’s something we’re just going to roll with. It’ll make us better in the end, throw us in the competition and see what happens.”
Being from Milton and having been a part of the program, both coaches saw it as an advantage.
“We can kind of look back at our experiences and kind of formulate ‘well, this was super helpful for me.’ And it’s nice because I have sisters that played on the team with me, and it’s nice that I’ll have them as resources because not everything works the same way for every individual,” Stair said. “So we kind of have opportunities to talk to our old teammates and kind of see what worked for them and see what they liked best and take our experiences and theirs to develop into individual experiences for all our current players.”
Stair said that she hopes she can be a role model for younger golfers like she had growing up.
“I started golfing at Oak Ridge when I was 5 years old, 6 years old. Andrea was my coach throughout. So, looking up to them was a huge part of my game so I’m really excited to have other players look up to me and us as coaches and make them ultimately the best they can be. Holistically, not just from a golf aspect, but as personal, academic, just well-rounded individuals.”
Farnsworth said that the two of them together, with all of their experiences, could make a difference further down the season.
“I’m really excited to even just have Ashton on board,” he said. “As soon as I was told that, I was immediately excited. She knows how girls golf works. She was very successful as a golfer during her four years. Varsity player, she was a state champ. So, she knows the right way to do things and she’s been through a lot as far as golf goes. So, I think our minds working together are going to be a really good thing.”