Next winter, when the Greenwood boys basketball team needs a late basket and Eric Moenkhaus has the ball in his hands, he’s not going to let nerves get the best of him.

The junior has a pretty good explanation for why: Golf.

“Golf helps a ton with basketball, being a shooter,” Moenkhaus said. “Miss a shot, you’ve got to just rub it off and make the next one.”

Basketball is Moenkhaus’ first love, but he’s fared pretty well in his “other” sport as well. He’s the top-ranked player for the Woodmen, who opened their season Monday against Whiteland.

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Last spring, he missed qualifying for the regional by one stroke. Moenkhaus is setting the bar higher for himself this year, but he’s also not obsessed with clearing it.

“My goal this year is to make it to state,” he said. “But I’m not really thinking about the outcomes. I’m just going to go to practice every day and hit some balls and get better.”

Moenkhaus already has been pretty good for quite some time, which is somewhat surprising given how infrequently he actually plays the game. He estimates that he’s hit balls about 20 to 25 times since the end of last season — and though he lives right next to a golf course, he only played a handful of rounds.

By the time he ventured to Florida for spring break last month, Moenkhaus hadn’t played in about three or four months.

Much to his own surprise, the lack of practice didn’t matter.

“I went to the range and I was hitting, and my swing felt the exact same,” Moenkhaus said.

Greenwood coach Mike Young said that Moenkhaus’ steady and consistent swing serves him well, and notes that he has the ability to correct himself on the fly when things aren’t going well.

The best example, the coach noted, was during last year’s sectional round, when Moenkhaus was struggling with his woods and decided to play the final 10 holes with a 5-iron. That adjustment enabled Moenkhaus to play the back nine at 1-over par — with only a three-putt on the final green keeping him out of the regional field.

Perhaps Moenkhaus’ greatest strength on the golf course, though, is his mental game. He’s not easily rattled by mistakes, something that sets him apart from many of his peers.

Moenkhaus’ easygoing attitude stems in large part from the fact that he isn’t too passionate about the sport.

“I enjoy golf,” he said, “but at the same time, I don’t like it so much that — if I hit a bad shot, I’m not really going to be getting mad. And I think that’s what makes me better than some other players that have the same skill level as me.

“I can just relax, just go find my ball and hit the next shot, and not worry about the outcome.”

Don’t interpret that chilled-out approach as evidence that Moenkhaus doesn’t care about the end results, though. He’s still very much a competitor, his coach said.

He’s going out there to have a good time.

“He can tell everybody and their mother that it’s his second sport,” Young stated, “but when he’s on the golf course, he wants to win.”

More often than not, he has. And though he’s putting most of his focus toward earning a chance to play college basketball, Moenkhaus still plans to keep his golf game just sharp enough in case an injury derails his hoop dreams.

Not a bad second option.

By the numbers

Eric Moenkhaus’ statistics on the basketball court…

Year;PPG;RPG;APG;SPG

2016-17;17.5;4.6;1.7;1.4

2015-16;13.3;3.7;1.3;1.2

…and on the golf course:

2016 scoring average (9 holes):

2016 Johnson County meet: 72 (T-2nd)

2016 Southport Sectional: 79

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.