EFFINGHAM — St. Anthony juniors Dakota Flaig and Joey Trupiano are two of three Daily News Boys Golfers of the Year.
Flaig finished this past year for the Bulldogs with an 18-hole scoring average of 76.3 — tying senior and fellow Daily News Boys Golfer of the Year Lane Ludwig.
“He’s a bulldog for us,” Zaccari said. “He wants to do well and he’s going to grind through it.”
Flaig had to learn to adopt that mentality after not being a part of the six-man rotation as a sophomore.
It was something that ate at him all offseason and, as a result, Zaccari noted that he was out to prove something his junior year.
“Dakota was out to prove something this year and I think he did,” he said. “If you ask him, he would have said he could have done better; Dakota’s that type of player, but he was very consistent for us. At times, he was our best golfer during the season. He wanted to prove that his sophomore year was a fluke and didn’t want that to happen again.”
Zaccari narrowed it down to two things Flaig worked on the most.
“Mental and short game,” Zaccari said. “That’s what he really worked on. It’s that 30-yards-and-in that we stress and stress. He took it to heart.”
Flaig started his first postseason run since his freshman year with a win at the McLeansboro (Hamilton County) Regional. He defeated Trupiano in a playoff after both individuals fired an 18-hole round of 70. Flaig then shot a 78 at the Waterloo (Gibault Catholic) Sectional and tied for 20th at the Class 1A State Final Tournament at Prairie Vista Golf Course after a two-day score of 79-78.
As for Trupaino, the defending Class 1A medalist finished in a tie for 11th this go-around at the Bloomington course after firing a pair of 76s and finished his junior season with a team-best 18-hole scoring average of 75.8.
“He got more consistent in his scoring,” Zaccari said. “There wasn’t a big swing between his lowest and his highest round this year, so he was much more consistent. We could count on him being one of the low scorers at all times.”
What helps those scores is enjoying the courses he plays on.
Take Prairie Vista as an example.
In each of his last six state rounds, Trupiano has scored in the 70s in five of them, good for an average of 76.6.
That has led to almost zero pressure when he arrives at the driving range before his round.
“He enjoys playing that course and knows the course now; he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself,” Zaccari said. “I think he learned that his freshman year. He can only do what he can do and I think he understands that now. He takes (Prairie Vista) as his second home course.”
Trupiano and his teammates hope to make one final trip to his “second home,” too.
Zaccari is excited to see what these two juniors, in particular, can do in their farewell campaign.
“We’re excited. It’s going to be another group that I’m going to miss. These guys have matured through the years and they’ve been steady for us. Joey, especially, you’ve seen the leadership come through. He understands what his role will be next year and they want to do something that we’ve never done and very few high schools have done and that’s try to win a third one.”
Flaig and Trupiano were asked a series of questions from Daily News Sports Editor Alex Wallner.
Below is how they responded.
AW: Thoughts on your season overall?
DF: “This season was the most fun I have ever had — from golf to the bus rides. There was never a dull moment. When it comes to golf, I feel I had the best season so far. I always felt I was in contention for every tournament, but it was also nice knowing I was helping my team win. I would change nothing about this season — other than the eight on No. 12 at state.”
JT: “I think I had a great season. I feel like I performed well all season and helped my team when they needed me the most, which exceeded my expectations.”
AW: What can you take away from this past season heading into your senior season? What do you need to work on?
DF: “I’m very excited for next year. I think the team will be amazing again. I also feel like I have more to prove. This season has taught me I can play well in tournament play, which is huge. I am just looking to do my best next season to help my team win and hopefully bring home another state title — that is the dream, of course. I’m also looking to just improve my game overall. I feel everything needs a lot of work, but I know I can get there.”
JT: “I know I can play and compete with anyone. I learned how to lead from our seniors this year and can work on being more confident and comfortable in myself.”
AW: Talk about reclaiming and earning your spot back in the postseason lineup. What did you do all summer to get that spot back?
DF: “Last year was amazing. Seeing my team win was amazing. It was a little different for me because I didn’t play, so I told myself I was going to do everything to get the feeling the other guys had. I worked extremely hard all summer. I was out there every day working on something. Whether it was my swing, short game, or even mental game, I think that is what pushed me over the line this year. I feel my mental game has improved a ton and I hope to keep it that way. It was amazing earning my spot back in the postseason. Knowing I counted in all three levels of the postseason and even winning regionals was amazing. To top it off, we won a state title and I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.”
AW: Finished as the lowest individual on the team for the second straight year. Talk about both of your rounds at state and what you were thinking heading into each day.
JT: “State this year was the most nervous I have ever been. I had something different to play for that even my teammates didn’t have. All I told myself was to get past the first day and we could win this thing because I knew if our team stayed in the top three after the first day, we could easily win and I am very pleased with how I performed.”
AW: What does a second-straight state title mean to you? Does it ever get old raising that trophy?
DF: “I don’t think it is possible for it to get old winning state. It is what we work for all day and every day. Seeing us do it again is awesome because we work hard for it. I don’t think many people see that. The guys on our team are out there every day grinding. We know we can do it and to do it is just the best. This is something I will hold on to forever. Back-to-back is as cool as it gets.”
JT: “This trophy means more than last year. We knew that it would be very special to win it again. It never gets old seeing or holding that trophy.”
AW: How confident were you heading into this year?
DF: “If you asked me about my confidence in the summer, I would have said barely any. I struggled for much of this year. I gained my confidence back after my 66 in the junior club championship. After that, I don’t think anyone could have told me anything to lose my confidence. I knew I could do it, so it makes me even more happy seeing it pay off.”
JT: “I was not very confident at all due to a very poor summer performance. I had very little confidence going into the high school season, but I knew my team would have my back and they did when I would have a bad day. They would have my back or vice versa, which helped as we grew as a team this year. I exceeded how I thought I was going to perform this year, which makes me feel very accomplished as a player this year.”