Jackson McClaren and Camryn Nagy have similar approaches early in the Laramie High golf season.
Nagy, a junior, and McClaren, a sophomore, are motivated by some success from past seasons, and spent the summer honing their skills.
“I’ve worked very hard this summer to get better scores,” Nagy said. “I worked on just playing golf, and mostly my confidence. That’s really helping me out and having a consistent swing.”
McClaren added: “The spring season is kind of hard because you are fresh out of winter, your swing might not feel the best and the courses aren’t always in the best shape. I played in a lot of events during the summer in Colorado. It’s a process everyone has to go through — just grinding every day.”
Both were introduced to golf from their parents at a young age, and participated in the University of Wyoming First Tee junior golf program. When they were not playing for LHS, there was plenty of junior golf tournament to fill the schedule.
McClaren placed eighth at last season’s state tournament with rounds of 77 and 79 at the Airport Golf Course in Cheyenne to earn all-state honors.
“I had goals in my freshman year to compete and be in contention in a lot of events,” McClaren said.
In the first tournament this fall at the Wheatland Golf Club last week, McClaren shot rounds of 84 and 78 to tie for seventh with junior teammate Titus Wookey.
“The greens were really grainy and some putts lipped out for some bad breaks, and I made some mistakes,” McClaren said. “I kind of recovered on the second day, and I just felt neutral about it — I could’ve played a lot better.”
Nagy finished 14th at state last season with rounds of 96 and 92.
“It didn’t go as I wanted it to and my score wasn’t as good shooting in the 90s both days,” Nagy said. “I was very consistent, but it could’ve been a lot better.”
Nagy’s focus on the mental part of the game paid off to start this season. She had a 91 on the first day in Wheatland, then dropped five strokes the second day to win the girls individual title by four strokes.
“On the first day, I could’ve played better but I was happy with my outcome,” Nagy said. “On the second day, I played a lot better. I kept my confidence up and was relaxed.”
A familiar presence
Aaron Johnson, who has been a part of the Laramie golfing community for years and was an LHS assistant coach last season, didn’t hesitate for the chance to become the head coach for the Plainsmen and Lady Plainsmen this season.
Johnson took over for two-year coach Logan Spence, who moved to Casper. Johnson played golf at LHS before he graduated in 2006, and was on the University of Wyoming golf team from 2008-09.
Johnson started playing professionally in 2009 and became an assistant professional at UW’s Jacoby golf Course. He has been the director of instruction at the course since 2015, and executive director of UW’s First Tee program since 2017.
Johnson brought in former 27-year LHS head golf coach Kurk Aegerter to be his assistant coach.
“I couldn’t be happier by having Kurk as my assistant,” Johnson said. “For my first year as head coach, it’s good to have somebody with that experience on our staff.
“I taught golf in Laramie for almost 15 years, and I love this community and that we have a good golfing community. I would like to see our high school teams be a little more competitive, and that’s something I can do as a teacher of golf.”
The Plainsmen finished eighth out of 11 teams at last season’s state tourney.
In addition to McClaren and Wookey, they also return senior Braden Six, junior Thayne Thatcher and sophomore Colter Harvey who played at state.
“We are still pretty young, but they have worked really hard over the summer,” Johnson said. “We have seven or eight guys who can compete on varsity. After our first tournament, this group shot their career low team rounds. The trajectory is going to be good, and my goal is to continue on that same trajectory.”
The Lady Plainsmen were fifth out of nine teams at state last year with seniors Kenzie Yeend and Emily Cattles and Nagy. Joining Nagy this season are newcomers Grace Kordon, Samantha Kitchen and Emma Master.
“This is a big year for Camryn, who is one of those players who has that competitive fire,” Johnson said. “When she has that first taste of victory, she wants to go again. For the rest of girls, their goal is to get better every time they tee it up.”
For all LHS golfers whether experienced veterans or younger players, Johnson plans to bring a coaching style he learned years ago playing for Aegerter and from teaching the game.
“We are changing a lot,” Johnson said. “With my background as a golf instructor we are working on a lot of drills and fundamentals. We are spending a lot more time improving our craft, and most importantly, I am a big believer in understanding how we manage our way around the golf course.”