---- — During last year's sectional tournament, then Effingham-sophomore Jackson Wendling picked a bad time to have his worst hole of the season.
Wendling carded a nine on the first hole of the Carbondale sectional on his way to an uncharacteristic 80, missing out on qualifying for the state golf tournament. Effingham finished two points away from qualifying as a team.
Anthony Lechman was the only Heart to make it to state, with Jake Linders losing in a playoff and Wendling's off-hole costing him.
Coach Jeff Schafer isn't sweating it, though, knowing fully what the Flaming Hearts have this year in the now junior Wendling.
"He should rewrite all the records," Schafer said. "He won the conference last year. He's definitely going to be our leader, definitely one of the most talented players around."
The Hearts had their tryouts Thursday night coming off a 15-2 season and a regional title, and Schafer is beginning to set his lineup for Monday's opener at Fox Prarie in Windsor.
Like many things in high school golf, Schafer says the experience Wendling and the Hearts had at the Carbondale sectional will serve as a lesson.
"Looking back at it, it's probably good for Jackson," Schafer said. "Our team had a chance to go to state, Jackson was the key to our success last year all year long. He feels responsible. He had one score above a six all year long (before sectionals). He doesn't have bad holes. I think he'll learn from that."
Wendling shot a 71 at regionals in Effingham, besting the entire field. The team has to replace Lechman, who has moved on to Millikin University, and Anthony Barrett to graduation.
The Hearts will look to Linders to fill the second spot in the lineup. Linders got stronger as the 2012 season went on, and could provide some stablility at the top behind Wendling.
Schafer said Effingham will look to Calloway Smith to slide into the third spot, as the freshman has impressed early on in practices.
"He's been a really solid player for a younger player, he plays in a lot of tournaments over the summer," he said.
Sophomore Reed Schafer and junior Sean Sandifer round out the top five, after playing in every varsity match last season.
"It's time to make the transition from once in a while 42 to between 39 and 42 every time," Jeff Schafer said.
Brandon Dahnke is slotted into the sixth spot right now, and Michael Woltman will have opportunities to see playing time as the team's seventh man.
While Wendling should lead the team as Schafer said, the strength of the team will have to come from the back end if the Hearts want to repeat their successes from the past few years.
"I don't expect them to be shooting in the 50s," he said. "I'm really hoping these guys will mature. The key to high school golf is not making the double bogeys. They've got the experience to learn that bogey isn't bad."
Effingham will ease into their schedule, participating in just one tournament in the first week. They travel to Fox Prarie Monday to face off with Mt. Carmel, Robinson and crosstown rival St. Anthony for the St. Anthony Invitational at 1 p.m.
"I expect us to have a lot of success this year," Schafer said.