Muscatine boys golf coach Scott Schultz admitted Friday that he always hopes the season-openers play out better than they actually do.
Competing at their home invite at Geneva Golf and Country Club in Muscatine, the Muskies placed eighth out of 12 teams with a 387 team score, 86 strokes behind first-place Pleasant Valley.
"I'm definitely not happy with the eighth-place finish … at our own invite," Schultz said. "But I looked at the kids, each one of them, I know we're going to improve. I absolutely know that. They have to know that in their hearts as well. I'll get them pointed in the right direction, that's for sure."
Rebuilding the Muscatine boys golf program, which lost its top four golfers from a year ago to graduation, isn't going to be a quick fix.
But Schultz sees a lot promise in a group that was led by two freshmen, two juniors and two seniors Friday.
Freshman Doug Custis shot an 88 to pace the Muskies in his varsity debut, hitting nine of 14 fairways and shaking off any first-round jitters.
"It was kind of like my first tournament," Custis said. "I was a little nervous, just not knowing exactly what to expect. And then when I stepped up on the first tee, I just tried to keep myself calm and do the best I could. I started out a little shaky, but I felt like when I had a bad hole, I really bounced back well, and that really helped keep my round low."
Solid drives mixed with strong iron play set up several birdie and par opportunities throughout the round.
"Just not all of them fell," Custis said.
Junior James Solt, one of only two Muskie golfers who had any previous varsity experience before Friday, shot a 93 in his season debut.
"Front nine, I was just making little mistakes," Solt said. "I kept myself kind of on track because I ended up shooting a 43, but just little things here and there that would get me to a bogey or double bogey. On the back nine, my short game was really bad, I made some bad decisions. I tried to go for it on No. 12 and ended up going (out of bounds), just silly mistakes that could have easily been avoided."
Minor miscues that quickly added up but can be quickly fixed seemed to be a common theme for the Muskies on Friday.
"I had a lot of mistakes that I definitely can fix," Custis said. "Those are just kind of I lost focus, and I need to make sure I can stay focused through 18 holes."
Freshman Grant Valiant and senior Dylan Bishop rounded out the scoring for the Muskies with a 101 and 105, respectively.
Muscatine will be back in action at the Iowa City West Invite on Monday at Blue Top Ridge.
"We're not an extremely deep team, meaning our seventh and eighth person on varsity, they're going to get a lot of time on (junior varsity)," Schultz said. "I'm hoping that they're going to be able to put in the work to be able to challenge some of these original six starters, keep pushing them.
"It comes down to we're an extremely young team, and we will get better. It's just having them believe that they're going to get better."