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In a breakout season, Lincoln Bates leads Mitchell golf from tee to green

Bates has been the Kernels' best golfer this season, averaging a team-low stroke average of 76.5.

Lincoln Bates 1.JPG
Mitchell's Lincoln Bates hits a drive on Hole No. 2 during the Mitchell Invite on Friday, Sept. 16 2022 at Lakeview Golf Course.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Lincoln Bates can outdrive almost anyone on the golf course.

Bates has always been known to have big drives, and with his 310-yard drives, Mitchell golf head coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt went as far as saying he might hit the ball the furthest out of anyone in Class AA, but Bates has improved other aspects of his game this season and broken out as Mitchell’s best golfer during his senior year.

Bates has a team-low scoring average of 76.57 strokes per round this year, nearly four strokes better than anyone else on the team, and almost six strokes lower than the 82.6 he averaged last season. In fact, the 76.5 average is even better than Bates’ lowest round last season of 77. For the season, he has four rounds of 75 or better, including a pair of 73s.

So what’s been the difference for him from last season to this season? According to Bates, it’s his mental approach.

“A lot of it was just mindset on the course; course management was most of it, figuring out where to miss,” Bates said.

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He got some help from the coaching staff in the course-management department, though. Mitchell added Jeff Meyerink as a coach to the boys team this season, and Bates noted that Meyerink has helped him improve on the course-management aspect of the game significantly, as well as getting more comfortable with hitting different shots, such as varying lofts on shots inside 100 yards.

Kreutzfeldt noticed that he’s been more focused during practice and tournament this year, which has helped his mental game and allowed him to rebound more from bogeys and eliminate double bogeys, while still collecting as many birdies as he can.

“I think birdies have always been easy for me,” Bates said. “But keeping the bogeys and double bogeys (off the scorecard) has always been hard for me.

“(A point of emphasis) was mainly just lowering the misses and trying to get double bogeys off the scorecard and realize I can bounce back from bogeys.”

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Mitchell's Lincoln Bates lines up a putt on Hole 2 during the Mitchell Invite on Friday, Sept. 16 2022 at Lakeview Golf Course.
Zech Lambert / Mitchell Republic

The results have paid dividends for the senior, placing as high as third in a tournament with a season-low score of 73 at the Huron Invitational. For Kreutzfeldt, Bates' performance this season has been a welcome sight, and it’s the best he’s seen him play during his time on the Mitchell golf team.

“Not even close, the best he’s played,” Kreutzfeldt said of Bates’ performance this season.

Bates also mentioned his iron play as an area of improvement this season from last year, saying he’s gotten better with shorter-distance irons, which he uses more frequently since he hits the ball further off the tee.

However, despite putting together some of his best rounds in a Kernel polo shirt, he feels like there’s more out there for him, citing his putting as an area he still wants to improve.

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“I haven’t had a round where everything’s been clicking yet,” Bates said. “(I’m) just waiting for that to happen.”

With the season winding down, Bates only has a handful of chances left to put everything together in a round, but with the Class AA state boys golf tournament taking place at Lakeview Golf Course — Mitchell’s home course — he feels that gives him an advantage over the rest of the field.

“I have the opportunity to play this course every day,” Bates said of the upcoming state tournament. “Compared to everybody else, they can’t do that.”

Regardless of where he finishes at the state tournament, this season has been an improvement for the senior. He’s led Mitchell all season long and has stepped up after last year’s top golfer, Macon Larson, graduated.

To Kreutzfeldt, though, the potential has always been there for Bates, and this season, he’s just fulfilling that potential.

“Lincoln is a kid that just has a ton of skill,” Kreutzfeldt said. “He probably has the most skill on our team, it was just whether he could put it together, and this year, he’s really putting it together.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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