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Draper Journal

Juan Diego boys golf on course with new coach

Oct 04, 2018 12:25PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Juan Diego Catholic High School golfers Will Van Berckelaer and Matt Lebrecht pose with Japanese golfers during the two team's friendly match at Thanksgiving Point. (Photo courtesy Ben Voegele)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

The Juan Diego Catholic High School boys golf team returned just one senior — Will Van Berckelaer — from last year’s team, and needed to fill the void left by six upperclassmen. The Soaring Eagle squad also began the season with new coach Ben Voegele, who was the assistant coach last fall.

“It’s hard for any sport to lose that many quality players,” Voegele said. “Will and I had a long talk about expectations of leadership with our young group. But, I certainly don’t expect him to carry everything on his back.”

Van Berckelaer has led Juan Diego on the course this season as the top golfer in all but one region tournament. He is considered by Voegele to be among the top 20 players in the region.

Voegele, who teaches at St. John the Baptist Middle School, has a baseball background, as he played collegiately in North Carolina and coached at Rowland Hall for years. He brings knowledge of a golf swing as well and also heavily emphasizes the mental aspect of golf to the Soaring Eagle squad.

“There are a lot of similarities between baseball and golf,” Voegele said. “There may be different techniques with swings and a different pace to the game, but there is such a mental approach where you have to have a short-term memory and get over it real quick. These kids are so talented that I’d like to see the most change on the mental side. If they can improve there, I’ll be happy.”

Van Berckelaer said he appreciates the inspiration Voegele has brought to the program. “He motivates us to do our best and then helps us to see that regardless of the round we have, that we can still walk away, let things go and look at the positives.”

Voegele said he’s thrilled to be at Juan Diego and is just “trying to be their biggest cheerleader.”

This season, Juan Diego placed fifth in Region 11 tournaments at Ben Lomond, Stansbury, River Oaks, Tooele, Bonneville, Ogden and Birch Creek. 

The team also competed at Park City Sept. 20. 

Freshman Evan Lee looks to be a significant part of the future of the program, according to Voegele. 

“Fundamentally, Evan has no flaws,” Voegele said. “He just needs to grow into his body, but if you give him a couple of years, he’ll be among the best in the region and the state.”

Sophomore Jett Jones, who shot a career-best round of 88 Sept. 5 at Ogden, has also been a “nice surprise,” said Voegele. 

Voegele credits his team for battling through a “varsity schedule with young guys.” “They haven’t quit and they keep showing up to practice,” Voegele said. “We won’t make state this year, but give it a year or two and we’ll be right there.”

A highlight of the season was a friendly match at Thanksgiving Point Aug. 24 with a team from Japan who “live, breathe and eat golf,” according to Voegele. “It was very obvious that this wasn’t their first time picking up clubs,” he said. “We played pretty well and hung with them and made some international friendships along the way.”

Also on the 2018 Juan Diego squad are junior Gavin Harker; sophomores Kyle Ebner, Jett Jones, Konnor Kegel, Matt Lebrecht and Ethan McKenzie; and freshman Erik Brown.

“It has been a real pleasure learning how to be a leader on this team,” Van Berckelaer said. “We have a really good family connection on this team. It’s a real brotherhood. I can’t wait to see what this team and Coach Voegele do from here on out.”

Voegele has been assisted by Taylor Barton on the coaching staff this season.

“We’re young, but I really believe this team is gaining momentum and will be a force in a year or two,” Voegele said. “They just needed a season of experience under their belt.”