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Jay Knaak, head coach of the Clarkson/Leigh boys golf team, is hoping to lead the Patriots to state for the fourth time in five years. 

With only one regular player back on the roster, keeping the tradition alive will be as tough as ever.

The Patriots will look to senior Logan Becher to lead the team. Garrett Sayers is also a returning letter winner. 

When it gets to the postseason though, Clarkson/Leigh will have one big advantage at districts. The district championship to qualify for state takes place at the Patriots home course, Club 91. 

"We are fortunate enough to have districts on our home course," Knaak said. "I think that will help us if we have a chance to go back.

"Looking at our district, it looks like we'll be probably in the top four and the top three go to state. I think our number one man should be able to make it individually and we'll just see whether we can get enough low scores to get there as a team."

That means quick development for some and maintaining a high level of play for others.

"(We have) many young players, so experience in playing meets will have to grow," Knaak said. "I anticipate we will have an individual qualifier and hope to round some players into competing as a team for a trip to state."

Becher finished tied for 45th at state last year. 

The first meet for the Patriots is at 9 a.m. on April 1 at West Point-Beemer. 

The weather has made it difficult for the Patriots to get in quality practice. When Clarkson/Leigh has been able to practice, they've had to take swings indoors.

"We practiced Monday and Tuesday (last) week inside," Knaak said. "We have some foam golf balls that we hit off bats in our gym. We did that for a couple days to get a little bit of our swing back, but yesterday we didn't have school, today we didn't have school and we might not have it tomorrow depending on the weather. We'll see how it goes."

While on the course, Clarkson/Leigh hopes to win the mental battle every golfer endures at some point on the course. For new players learning how to navigate the emotions, much of that has to be learned.

Success at the short game goes a long ways towards building that necessary confidence.

"Hopefully they excel at the mental part of the game and not get too frustrated with any errant shots or anything," Knaak said. "We really work on that. We really work on our short game, because that's where most of your strokes come from no matter what kind of golfer you are.

"We practice a lot from 100 yards in or 150 yards into the green and work on putting quite a bit."

Clarskson/Leigh's home course has its advantages for those familiar with its layout. For those unfamiliar, rounds can be filled with ups and downs.

"If you can hit the ball on the fairway it's pretty easy, but we do have very big greens, so you do have to put the ball in the right place on the green," Knaak said. "Three-puts are definitely common on our course because of the size of our greens.

"We work pretty hard to try to avoid those are much as possible. It's fairly long. We have some longer holes. We have some kids that can hit the ball pretty good and take advantage of those situations pretty good, too."

There are a few former players who remain on the fence about coming out for the team. Knaak believes that if they come out, the odds of going to state will increase. 

If the former players choose not to come out, then Knaak will have to rely on new players to fill their shoes. 

"If I can get those could-of guys that were not going out to go out then maybe we'll have a better chance, but hopefully the young guys can pick it up if we ever get out there," he said. "If the wind quits blowing and it quits snowing and flooding stops, we might be able to get out there before April."

Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email SCHsports@lee.net.

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