Just two weeks into the boys golf season, it might be premature of Valparaiso coach Wayne Lichtenberger to make future down state hotel reservations.
I wouldn't blame him if he did so. The Vikings are flat-out the cream of the crop in the area when it comes to the prep links -- and I already predict they'll be playing in the IHSAA finals at The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin in the middle of June.
At the season-opening Hall of Fame Tournament, the state No. 7 Vikings finished fourth, 13 shots off the lead. Second-ranked No. Columbus North and No. 4 Evansville Harrison were the lone two rated teams to beat Valparaiso. The Vikings bested five ranked teams, including No. 3 Warsaw and No. 5 Zionsville.
A week later, Valparaiso easily outdistanced the field at the Marquette Catholic Invitational with a 301, defeating No. 20 LaPorte by 15 strokes.
Lichtenberger said he feels like he has five No. 1s when he writes out his lineup -- and he might not be far off.
Logan Bertalan is the lone senior in the top four, but he and juniors Bobby Jacobs and Kyle Meihofer have played three rounds in the state finals the past two years. Junior Andrew Gariup played at the state finals last season.
At the Hall of Fame, Meihofer and Jacobs tied for fourth with 74s and Bertalan was 19th with a 78. At Marquette, the Vikings took four of the Top 10 spots -- including Patrick Andrie's 10th (78). Gariup had the throw-out score, but his 80 was 14th overall.
The pleasant temperatures have definitely helped this team.
"We haven't had to swing with three layers of clothing," Lichtenberger said. "I think our swings are a month ahead of time."
I think two other factors have also played a part in the early successes.
Four-fifths of the lineup returns from last year's opening-round collapse at the state finals. The Vikings were a combined 14-over for the final three holes -- but that experience appears to be a thing of the past.
"What happens, happens," Meihofer said. "We didn't dwell on the past. We have (mostly) the same team back, and we can play."
The final ingredient is team chemistry -- sometimes an overstated term. Talking to Meihofer, it appears this group really gets along -- and that's an added bonus.
"I just love playing with these guys," Meihofer said. "Team chemistry is great. It's even better when we can all shoot great scores."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.