Kirnan Koenig has fine-tuned techniques that have made him one of the area’s better high school golfers.
But the Lincoln Pius X senior says his improved scores can also be credited to his high school coach, who has helped Koenig improve his composure on the course and subsequently shave strokes off his score.
Coach a ‘mental guy’
“Coach (Tom) Seib is a big ‘mental guy’ who encourages us to shake it off when we have a bad hole, and go on to the next one,” said the two-year varsity player and letter-winner.
The improvement has helped Koenig rise on the leader board.
“I’ve always had a pretty good driver, but Coach Seib’s assistance has really helped me with the mental aspect,” Koenig said. “His help has made me mentally tough.”
That’s encouraging news for a 2018 Thunderbolts team that returns virtually everyone who contributed at the varsity level last spring.
“Kirnan is our most experienced player and is a team leader,” said Seib.
The Thunderbolts could use more team performances like the one that resulted in a championship last year at Tregaron Golf Course in Bellevue. Competing in a field dominated by Omaha schools, the Bolts’ peak performance included an 18-hole score of 80 by Koenig.
Koenig’s top round in high school competition last spring was a 79 he shot at the Norfolk Invitational at Norfolk Country Club. His personal-best round of 18 was the 75 he carded at a tournament two summers ago in Beatrice.
Pius X also returns three other golfers who lettered as underclassmen last spring: senior John Lilliedahl, and juniors Holton Harman and Alex Sailors. Koenig said he believes this year’s team has the potential to win as many as three tournaments and to finish first or second at the district tournament level.
“With the experience we return, I think there’s a lot of potential,” he said.
Another goal on the Thunderbolts’ team bucket list is a state tournament berth – an accomplishment they narrowly missed in 2017, when they were three strokes shy of qualifying.
“We didn’t play some of our best golf at district last year,” Koenig reflected, “so I think this year’s squad definitely has a shot of qualifying for state.”
Koenig was introduced to golf 10 years ago by his grandfather, Bob Koenig of Lincoln, who continues to attend his grandson’s high school meets.
On his list of mentors, Koenig also includes former PGA Tour player Mike Schuchart, director of instruction at the Nebraska Golf Academy at Wilderness Ridge for over 10 years. Schuchart, who also is assistant coach for the UNL women’s golf team, works with Koenig on his mechanics.
Pius X Coach Seib shares his team leader’s optimism. “We are a young team,” says the longtime Pius X coach and classroom instructor. “We hope to build on last year’s experiences with almost our entire varsity squad returning.”
The Thunderbolts opened their 2018 season March 20, playing host to Waverly for a dual meet at Holmes Golf Course in Lincoln. Holmes serves as the home of the Thunderbolts’ practices and as the site for most of their competitions.