MARINETTE - While the Marinette Marine golfers are busy crushing drives at Little River's heated indoor/outdoor range, coach Cary Waloway has other ideas for improving their scores.

"They all want to hit balls. They don't like working on that short game," Waloway said. "And my goal this year is we're going to be working on that more than anything."

In his first year as Marine boys' golf coach last spring, Waloway watched top golfers from the Fox Valley outshoot the Marines by getting up and down for par saves.

"You're not going to hit every green," Waloway said. "That's the key to scoring - chipping andf putting. If you can chip and putt you'll scramble and score."

The Marines return a solid core from last season's team that led the Bay Conference all season until fading in the heavily weighted conference tourney.

Bradley Thielen, the only senior, posted several nine-hole rounds in the 30s last season. Juniors Andy Swanson and Marcus Maguire were varsity regulars, and junior Denin Bieberitz got a taste of varsity competition last season.

Walowway wants Thielen to let up a little on his hard swings in order to gain better control.

"I expect him to be one of the best in the conference," the coach said.

Maguire's game improved immensely from the start of last season to the end.

Waloway gave Swanson lessons at an early age.

"I knew then he had a great golf swing, and he still does," the coach said.

Bieberitz crushes the ball off the tee.

The other varsity player, freshman Garrett Waloway, was practically born with a golf club in his hands.

"I've got five kids who can potentially break 80," coach Waloway said. "If you can get two or three guys in the 30s and a couple in the low-40s, they all should be able to do that. If we shoot a 160 (nine holes) or 320 (18 holes), we're going to win every match, pretty much."

Junior Mitchell Wojciehowski and sophomore Brendon Kriedeman played junior varsity golf last season and could be fill-in varsity players this spring.

The other 11 Marines are first-year high school golfers. They include seniors Alex McQueeney, Austin Kenas, Michael Nighbor, Alex Schoen, Brad Grawey and Brett Roehm; juniors Zach Delong and Tyler Beland; sophomores Joey Lange and Luke Kraus; and freshman Jesse Johnston.

Coach Waloway expects defending champion Luxemburg-Casco and West De Pere to be among the Bay's best teams.

"I think we'll compete with the whole conference," the coach said. "My goal is to get to state and get some of these kids playing college golf."

Last year's No. 1 Marine player, Mitch Francois, is playing on the Northern Michigan University golf team.

The conference coaches will meet Monday evening to plan makeup matches. The Marines won't begin their season until the April 27 Seymour Invite at the earliest.