Sam Koevenig smiles on the course during a Lawrence High School golf match last season. He is one of this year’s top returning golfers.

Gregg Zenerovitz isn’t looking for his Lawrence High golf team to set the world on fire this year but, with some young talent in the fold, he wouldn’t mind seeing the Cardinals at least light a match.

“Are we close to the top tier? No, we’re not there yet,” the coach, in his 15th year with the team, said. “But it makes us more competitive in that middle tier. That’s really what you’re looking for, improvement from last year.”

The Cards were 3-14-1 last season and return five starters from that team, while bringing in a promising freshman. Zenerovitz is hoping that means the flame can start burning a little brighter. Especially considering his top six all played a lot of golf last summer.

“I like to think small goals, to be honest with you,” he said in mid-March. “We’ve only been on the course twice and didn’t keep score but I think our nine-hole scores will be better. Our goals are to improve as the season goes on. I don’t want to say we want to get to 10 wins, but I want us to compete with those middle tier teams.”

Leading the way is No. 1 player Sam Koevenig, one of four sophomores in the starting lineup. Koevenig is a veteran golfer who Zenerovitz has known about since the player was in seventh grade.

“He’s a golf junkie, he plays all the time and he’s constantly hitting, whether it’s outdoors or indoors,” the coach said. “He loves golf, he wants to play college golf. He’ll shoot in the high 30s, low 40s. He’s just a golfer.”

A golfer who Zenerovitz hopes can rub off on the rest of his team.

“The one thing we talked about last year and this year was Sam helping some of his teammates out,” Zenerovitz said. “He does have a lot of experience, whether it’s a short game or course management. That’s what we want out of him this year, helping teammates out during practices, or while we’re at the range. He looked good so far the one week we were out there. When you play all the time you’re going to show improvement.”

Koevenig can hit a long ball off the tee, has a nice short game and “is a competitor” according to his coach.

As for the Cardinals, it appears they could be a bit less frustrated this season if things break right.

“He’s constantly grinding,” Zenerovitz said. “He’s only a sophomore and sometimes he gets a little frustrated on a bad hole, but who doesn’t in this sport. We want to see a little improvement in that mental aspect, but at 16 years old, he’s got a lot of good things going on.”

Another key returnee is sophomore Jeff Tamasi, who played all last summer with his father and grandfather. He went from shooting in the 50s down to the 40s.

“He has really improved, because he played a lot outside of the high school golf season,” Zenerovitz said. “He’s a real good kid, he’s very respectful, listens to instruction well and loves the game.”

Michael Scardelletti is the team’s lone senior. He is playing soccer in college but put in a lot of time on the links last summer. Scardelletti, who Zenerovitz feels is a true team leader, worked in the pro shop and as a caddy at Greenacres Country Club last summer. Since Greenacres is the Cardinals’ home course, he knows it even better now.

“He’s played a lot more than in the past,” Zenerovitz said. “His first three years he was all about soccer and I got it. He loves soccer, he comes from a soccer family and it’s his number one sport. But he played much more last summer, and that was always a big thing with Michael; just play a little bit more and you’re gonna get better.”

The coach is hoping his captain will lead by example, and show the younger golfers it doesn’t pay to get flustered.

“He’s got a good mindset as a golfer,” Zenerovitz said. “He doesn’t get frustrated out there, he’s competitive and he’s good for the younger kids, just to see how you’re supposed to act on the golf course. He’s a good representation of the program and we’re excited for him to be out there because he was able to commit more to golf.”

Gill Woody and Alex Ratzman are the other returning sophomores. Both saw some time on varsity last season and also made golf a priority in the summer and fall. Woody’s family does golf and tennis instruction on the side, so he worked at a camp over the summer. Zenerovitz expects both Woody and Ratzman to improve on their 50s averages from last year.

The Cardinals got a pleasant surprise in sophomore Sid Srivastava, who made a quick early impression.

“He has a golf background, you can tell that from what we saw on the course and the range,” Zenerovitz said. “He can play, his dad loves to play. It’s a very supportive family when it comes to golf, and Sid’s a nice addition to our young team.”

After that, depth is a problem. Zenerovitz noted that if injuries or absences occur, Lawrence must turn to some inexperienced players. Getting those kids in-match experience isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Zenerovitz said, but they might not be quite ready to see varsity time yet.

One advantage the coach feels his team has is playing at Greenacres. The course is beautiful, he said, yet challenging.

“It’s one of the toughest courses around,” Zenerovitz said. “In the 14 years I’ve been coach we’ve had some great wins there over some very tough teams because we understood how tough Greenacres is. Mercer Oaks is a beautiful course, but you can spray the ball all over there and not get in trouble. At Greenacres, there are trees all over. I really feel when we play teams there, we should be competitive with them and hold serve, because we understand that frustration is going to settle in for opponents.”

As for the Cardinals, it appears they could be a bit less frustrated this season if things break right.