How freshman boys golfer Mason Gatchel plans to continue his father's legacy at Ballard

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

Ballard boys golf coach Wyatt Weeks knew what he had in freshman Mason Gatchel at the start of the season.

Weeks spent a lot of time when he was younger learning about golf from Gatchel's father, Matt. He'd been around Mason since he was born and saw him quickly develop a passion for the game.

Gatchel clearly displayed the potential to be the No. 1 golfer for Ballard. But when the season began he was sitting in the No. 3 spot.

Ballard freshman Mason Gatchel hopes to follow in his father Matt's footsteps and become one of the top golfers in the state for the Bombers during his high school career.

“He needed to earn it for himself,” Weeks said. “I wanted to see him climb the ladder. He’s worked his way up to where I thought he would be.” 

Gatchel won medalist in his first meet. He shot a 38 over nine holes at the Ballard Golf and Country Club in a 158-251 dual meet victory over Perry April 5. 

He's gone on to win medalist four more times.

“He puts in the work,” Ballard junior Andrew Princehouse said. “He knows how to come back strong after a bad hole.” 

Princehouse said Gatchel has motivated the entire Bomber team.

“We’re trying to match how he’s playing,” Princehouse said. “We enjoy being around each other and we’re starting to get more consistent.” 

The Bombers haven't had much team success in recent years after winning four straight Class 3A state titles from 2007-10. But they're starting to turn the tide.

“The last couple years we really haven’t been able to compete,” Weeks said. “This year we’ve competed a lot.”  

Ballard has won 3 of 4 dual meets and also placed first at one triangular dual. The Bombers have come in fourth at their last two 18-hole tournaments heading into Monday's Raccoon River Conference meet at the Terrace Hills Golf Course in Altoona.

Gatchel said the Bombers are just getting started.

“I think we have a couple good years coming up,” Gatchel said. “I think we’ll be pretty good and hopefully have a couple state runs.” 

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Gatchel said he's been a little surprised by how well his freshman year has gone. His father isn't.

"We've been looking forward to his freshman year for a couple of years," Matt Gatchel said. "I couldn't ask for a better start."

Matt was a two-time state medalist runner-up in 1997 and 1998. He was also part of Ballard's first state championship team in 1997.

Mason admits there is some pressure trying to live up to the lofty standards set by his dad.

“It’s a little hard sometimes," Gatchel said. “I hear whoa, is that (Matt) Gatchel’s son.” 

But he enjoys the challenge.

“It's a little difficult sometimes,” Gatchel said. "But I have high expectations."

Matt said his role is just to always be there for support when his son needs it.

“It’s pretty good to have him as a coach,” Mason Gatchel said. “Anything I need he knows, which is very helpful.” 

Matt loves seeing his son succeed. But he wants him to gain a lot more than trophies during his time hitting the fairways at Ballard.

"Being part of a golf team, you get to build a lot of friendships," Matt Gatchel said. "I still have relationships with people I golfed with in high school. One of the kids I golfed with as a freshman — Josh Heaton of Carroll — ended up being in my wedding."

That's one of Gatchel's favorite things about golf.

“I like playing with my friends when I can,” Mason Gatchel said. “I just enjoy it.” 

His friends love his company — even though they usually can't keep up with him on the course.

“I try to beat him,” Princehouse said. “But he’s too good.” 

But Gatchel knows he still has a lot to learn on the course. Ballard's 18-hole tournaments at the Ames Golf and Country Club and the Briggs Woods Golf Course in Webster City over the last week were tough on him at times.

“He’s had a few rounds I don’t expect of him," Weeks said. "But we’ll get that turned around."

Ballard's Mason Gatchel wants to make the Class 3A state meet as a freshman.

Ballard hosts sectionals Wednesday. If Gatchel can make it through districts at the Oneota Golf and Country Club in Decorah he'll have the advantage of playing on a familiar course once again at state.

The 3A state meet is being held at the Veenker Memorial Golf Course in Ames.

“That’s like a second home course to me,” Gatchel said. “It gives me a confidence boost. I know where to hit them there.” 

Making state could be the beginning of something special. 

"He wants to continue to improve and maybe play at the next level," Matt Gatchel said. "But he could always decide on another sport. Whatever path he chooses, it's going to be a fun ride."