Rielly McGranahan was the Central DeWitt boys golf team’s disc jockey last season. Rap music was the popular choice during the squad’s van rides to competition.
Tanner Steffens has taken over the playlist responsibilities this spring with McGranahan gone. The theme has shifted to 1970s music, with bands like The Jackson 5 and Earth, Wind & Fire.
“That music represents our team well,” Steffens said. “We can play (golf), but we don’t have to take it super serious. We like to have fun and a good time when we’re playing, and the music brings that out.”
Central DeWitt has sustained a good beat on the course the past three years.
Undefeated so far this spring, the Sabers are looking to join Clear Lake (2004-06) and Ballard (2007-10) later this month as the only Iowa Class 3A programs to capture at least three consecutive titles since 1977.
The Sabers have depth, experience and firepower.
Other than McGranahan, everybody is back from last year’s championship team, which prevailed by 21 strokes at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
The top five players — Dylan McAleer, Tucker Kinney, Steffens, Drew Eden and Jacob Brainerd — have 18-hole scoring averages between 77 and 81.
“A big key is having the confidence everyone can play well on any given day,” Eden said. “If one guy is having a bad day, someone is going to pick him up. Golf is an individual sport, but the team aspect makes for a great atmosphere.”
Central DeWitt is a close-knit team.
McAleer, Kinney and Eden can see Springbrook Country Club in DeWitt outside their homes. Steffens and Brainerd live about a block away.
“No matter what time of day it is, we can go out and play,” Eden said. “It could be 36 holes on the weekend or night putting. It is a great experience and has made for a really close friendship.”
Steffens admits the proximity to the course has been important.
“If there is a golf course in your backyard, it makes things a lot more convenient,” he said. “If we lived out of town or had to drive 15 or 20 minutes, we might not be there as much.”
And they all relish competition.
Often during meets, they'll ask coach Jen Froeschle how others on the team are performing.
"We have such a good competition between the players, not necessarily against other teams," Eden said. "We all want to have bragging rights. We don’t let that stuff go."
With the exception of Steffens, the other five players in the Sabers’ lineup are multi-sport athletes. Kinney and Eden play at least three sports.
“Always competing with each team we’re on always helps,” Kinney said. “You never get out of that state of mind of trying to win and get better.”
Kinney, Steffens and Brainerd were among the six players in the lineup on Central DeWitt’s first championship in 2017.
That title was somewhat unexpected. It also put the Sabers on the radar.
“It not only made our school but our town notice golf a little bit more,” Steffens said. “It almost now has become what DeWitt is known for in sports. It pushes us to shoot better because we want to keep our reputation up for the town.”
Other than a second-place finish at the Solon Invitational last year, the Sabers didn’t have a blemish. They won Wamac, sectional, district and state titles.
The closest call this season has been a four-stroke win at the Wamac East Divisional meet earlier this week. Central DeWitt has a 311.5 team stroke average for 18 holes, third best in 3A this spring and about on par with what it compiled last spring.
“With each win we’re gaining more confidence,” McAleer said. “We’re on a good pace. We’re confident going for that three-peat, but we’ve got to keep working.”
The Sabers have reached the top twice. They are eager to stay there.
“It is all about not being content,” Kinney said, “We have that willingness to win again, to keep going. There is no better feeling.”
The postseason starts next week for Central DeWitt with the sectional meet on its home course. Districts follow in Manchester.
If they can get through both tournaments, the Sabers will vie for the three-peat in Fort Dodge on May 23-24.
You can expect the music will be playing.
“Singing along and having a good time on the way to these meets helps relieve some of the stress playing in tough competition,” Eden said. “We just have a lot of fun together.”