Josh Esterley

Junior Josh Esterley hopes to lead Chaska back to the state tournament as the Hawks’ top golfer.

Golf is routinely an individual game, but junior Josh Esterley has worked on building a strong team atmosphere within the Chaska boys’ golf program.

When Esterley’s family moved to a new house, they installed a homemade golf simulator with plywood, a net and three golf mats. During the offseason, he invited his teammates to use it so everyone would be more prepared heading into tournaments this season.

While he enjoys seeing his name at the top of the leaderboard, Esterley also wants to do his part in helping the rest of the Hawks play well.

“I love seeing my name at the top of the leaderboard, but it gives me more satisfaction seeing our team at the top of the leaderboard, because we need everyone to be towards the top of the leaderboard to make it to state and then do well when we’re at state,” Esterley said. “And having great teammates makes it easier to feel better when you’re not having a good day and a lot more fun when you’re having a good day.”

The Hawks did not have the team finishes they would have preferred earlier in the season, as they are riding the ebbs and flows — and weather — the season brings. In their two most recent conference tournaments, Chaska finished second on May 2 at Minneapolis Golf Club and fourth on May 9 at Island View. Esterley has had seven top 10 finishes this season and senior captain Zach Seltun was the medalist at Eastview.

Head coach Jeff Rydland said everyone on the team has the ability to play well at any given moment, but some players have been more inconsistent due to mental roadblocks. Esterley’s most significant improvement was his mental approach he learned from reading books by sports psychologist Bob Rotella. Now that the weather has turned, Rydland believes other players are beginning to knock the rust off and find a groove.

“They all are capable of playing really well, sometimes they will take turns back and forth,” Rydland said. “It’s nice to have them do really well early on so they know they can do it late in the season. I’m happy with how they are coming along and I know they have some good golf coming down the road.”

The Hawks are excited to try to make it back to the state tournament, as last season was their first appearance since 2008. But Rydland has tried to turn the team’s attention to working on smaller details rather than a set goal.

“The expectations should be every year that there are no expectations because it’s tough to play golf well when you’re forcing it,” Rydland said. “What tends to happen is the more patient you are and the harder you work, the luckier you get. You have to keep your emotions in check and stay the course, you can’t try really hard, you have to stay patient.”

Chaska did not play its best golf throughout the 2021 season, but came on toward the end to push to the state tournament. As players continue to progress and find their strengths, Esterley thinks the team could gel like last season.

“Zach Seltun and Sam Donahugh are both long off the tee. Sam Klovstad can be such an amazing golfer with his short game, and [sophomore] Henry Young has really been growing and contributing to the team,” Esterley said. “It’s awesome to see them all perform well because we’ll need them to succeed late in the season.”