Reigning 3A champ O’Neil eyeing team title in senior season

The Fruitland golf team poses for a photo with the team state runner-up trophy after the state tournament in May 2018.

Fruitland senior Jake O’Neil has accomplished a lot in his high school golf career. He’s the reigning 3A state champion and he’s signed to join the golf team at Boise State University next year.

And with the gold season getting underway this week, O’Neil has a few things he’s eyeing.

“I want to just keep getting better,” O’Neil said. “That, and get ready for collegiate golf. I want to be a better teammate. We’re going to be trying to win a state title.”

The team state title is something O’Neil said the Grizzlies are locked in on right now. A team state championship this spring would be a first for Fruitland High School.

That’s why O’Neil said he’s not focusing on himself this year.

“I just need to stick to being team focused,” O’Neil said. “I focused on individual golf all summer. I’m just focused on the team right now.”

O’Neil said playing golf for the team means there’s more pressure on you to not let the game get out of hand, as a poor performance will affect the team’s total as well.

“When you’re playing bad, you’re out there fighting for your teammates,” O’Neil said. “You can’t just go and throw the bag. We’re still a team out here, it’s just spaced out.”

And for O’Neil it was a strange world being on a full team last season. For his freshman and sophomore years, the Grizzlies didn’t have enough players to make a full team for tournaments. O’Neil said there were days when they would drag DaPri Weatherall out to play just to take that fourth spot.

But last year, the Grizzlies took on Jonas Bicknese and Lucas Rynearson and the Grizzlies were able to compete as a team. Fruitland is also getting Anthony Vincent back this spring after he missed last season with an injury.

“It’s definitely different at practice and at tournaments,” O’Neil said. “We actually had goals going out to tournaments. The first two years and the last two years are completely different, when looking back at high school golf.”

O’Neil said he’s enjoyed having more teammates out, as it gives him more people to compete with during practice, as well.

“There’s definitely more competition now,” he said. “When you’re by yourself you are able to make up mind games. But now we compete. And both of those guys definitely have a chance to play in college.”

O’Neil was able to see his first true golf competition on Wednesday afternoon at River Bend Golf Course, tying for second place with Rynearson.

O’Neil said he’s feeling alright a few months removed from a leg injury he suffered in October that threatened to make him miss all of basketball season.

“The leg’s feeling alright, it was a little achy but that’s just something I’m going to have to deal with,” he said. “I’m not going to let it bother me too much. All in all, it’s OK.”

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