It's time to tee it up!
Actually, the prep golf season got under way officially this past Friday, but it begins in earnest this week as teams crank up their respective seasons on the links.
The regular season in Ohio continues until late September when sectional play begins. The Division II and III state tournaments are set for Ohio State University's Scarlet Course and the North Star Golf Resort in Sunbury on Oct. 12 and 13.
MARTINS FERRY’S Taylor Shane returns for his senior season after winning the OVAC?Class 3A title last season. He’s one of several talented returning players to the area prep golf scene.
Prior to the state tournaments, the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference tournaments will be held on Sept. 11 and 13. On the 11th, Classes 1A, 2A and 4A will battle for conference supremacy. The smaller divisions will play at Crispin, while the 4A membership will play on Jones.
On the 13th, the OVAC 3A and 5A schools will play on Crispin and Jones, respectively.
Here's a capsule look at the area teams which returned information:
BARNESVILLE - One of the deans of Ohio Valley golf coaching, Jerry Robinson, will be guiding "the youngest team" he's ever coached in his now 13 seasons.
"This is a rebuilding year," Robinson said. "We have only one returning letterman, but we do have four girls out for this year's team and I am encouraged by our numbers and interest in golf this year. The kids are very eager to learn."
Leading the way for the Shamrocks will be sophomore letterwinner Maci McEndree. The lone senior on the squad is Stephen Burkhart.
A pair of juniors seeking a spot in the lineup are Auston Hannahs and Chase Mankin.
A large class of nine freshmen will be seeking action. It's comprised of Aspen Bauman, Austin Drake, Jacob Carpenter, Corey Seneff, Raenah Norris, Paige Hayes, Morgan Guthrie and Tyler Blackstone.
"I want the kids to have fun and not get discouraged while showing improvement as the season progresses," Robinson said.
BEALLSVILLE - The Blue Devils begin their first season under Jerry Brown, who replaced Patricia Marcum at the helm, with nary a senior on the roster.
The lone graduation loss was Justin Dietrich, who is now playing collegiately at Glenville State.
Junior John Dietrich leads the way for the Blue Devils. Sophomores Jeremy Fisher and Ryan Wells are the second and third players.
The balance of the roster consists of Hunter Sylvis, who transfered from Cambridge, and Kyle Carpenter.
"We have a very young team, but I think we can compete this season," Brown said. "We may even be able to surprise some teams."
BELLAIRE - The Big Reds have just one player on the squad for the second straight season. Austin Cusick will play in tournaments all season for the Big Reds.
BRIDGEPORT - The Bulldogs continue to build their program, which is in just its third season under Ron Gill.
"I have very high hopes this year with a veteran squad," Gill said.
The Bulldogs' unquestioned leader and top player is senior Jonathan Kreiter. The other seniors on the squad include Ryan Kasper, Austin Uhl and Cordell Bennett.
The balance of the team includes sophomores Parker Dyson and Zach Herink.
"We have a great leader in Jonathan and these seniors are experienced and excited to start the season," Gill said. "Parker was a great addition to the team and Zach Herink traveled to area tournaments over the summer to sharpen his skills."
HARRISON CENTRAL - The Huskies are looking to build on the success they had last season when they finished third in the Buckeye 8 and sixth in the OVAC, all of which were improvements from the 2010 campaign.
The Huskies will be led by senior veteran Drew Horn, who is seeking his fourth varsity letter. He shot a career best 76 to qualify for the district tournament.
Outside of Horn and fellow senior James Thompson, the Huskies will be young.
"We didn't lose any seniors from last year's team, but with the exit of numerous upperclassmen to other endeavors, the line-up will be very young," said Harrison Central head coach Todd Dunlap.
Sophomore Austin Kowalski is the only other letterman back in the fold.
The balance of the roster includes: senior Cassie Bellerive, James Beckett, Matt Hawthorne, Kyle Keimayer, Bryce Walrath, Jarett Edwards, Evan Ossman, Ian Saho, Ralph Gillig and George Case.
Dunlap is assisted by Donnie Madzia.
JOHN MARSHALL - The Monarchs have nine players our for the team as Dave Gaudino takes over the program.
However, none of those players has taken a single stroke in a varsity tournament.
"This will be a rebuilding year," Gaudino said. "We expect to play four kids in every varsity match and four kids in jayvee tournaments and rotate the players to both teams to maximize all of the players' experience."
Senior Malik Jordan will be the Monarchs' leader this season. He's joined by classmates Chris Fordyce, Garrett Ingram and Derek Tucker.
Just one junior, Brady Clark, and one sophomore, Travis Strait, are in the program. However, three freshmen Collin Griffith, Michael Richards and Jared Kettler, are battling for action in the program.
"I am very proud of this team because they've got limited golf experience, but they've worked very, very hard to learn the game of golf since the contact period in June," Gaudino said.
LINSLY - The Cadets find themselves in a rare position by their standards.
"We lost four of our top six to graduation and our number one player transfered," said Cadets' head coach Mark Zavatsky.
Linsly finished last season 22-15 in matches and was tied for second in the OVAC Class 2A Tournament.
Gone, however, from that team are Marcus Saludes, Michael Joseph, Bobby Palmer and Neil Tennant.
The new number one player is junior David Coram, who's been playing quite regularly on numerous summer tours after he averaged 41.8 for nine holes a season ago.
Sophomore Casey O'Korn is playing in the number two spot. Senior Nicole Gray and freshman Jordan Patrick are also expected to challenge for spots on the scoring list.
Sophomores Steven Songer, Ted McDonald and Matthew Schwarz are also in the mix. Denier Weech is a freshman from the Bahamas and is expected to compete, but she's not yet reported to school.
MARTINS FERRY - It was quite a season to remember for the Purple Riders and veteran head coach Joe Kosar.
The Purple Riders finished last season with a 114-18 record in match play and won the OVGL on the strength of a 40-2 record. They claimed the OVAC Class 3A title and finished second in the Buckeye 8 and fifth in the sectional to qualify for the district.
"That was the first team in school history to qualify for the district," Kosar said. "We'd sent some individuals in the past, but not a complete team."
If all of those accomplishments weren't enough ... the Purple Riders sent a female to the district tournament for the first time in school history thanks to Kaitlyn Bliss' fine play.
Martins Ferry will have five seniors in its lineup, including the defending OVAC Class 3A medalist, Taylor Shane. He was an all-OVAC, all-Buckeye 8 and all-Eastern District selection.
Senior Andrew Chlon was the OVAC runnerup and also earned all-Buckeye 8, all-OVGL and was the medalist at the sectional tournament and earned all-Eastern District.
Senior Chase Stuckey is also a solid player. He was all-OVAC, all-Buckeye 8 and all-Eastern District. Senior Zac Riggenbach will be a reliable fourth player after earning honorable mention all-district.
Bliss is back after a highly productive summer on several youth golf tours around the Ohio Valley and tri-state area. She was first-team all-Eastern District for girls.
Freshmen Joel Shane, Brandon Bliss and Logan Miller are newcomers for the squad.
"The athletes and parents put in a lot of time this summer playing in different tournaments," Kosar said. "I would like to thank them for their efforts for making us a better team."
The Riders won't be defending their conference title because they've moved up to Class 4A where they'll tangle with defending champion St. Clairsville and a host of others.
"We'll be facing some very good competition, but we've prepared for that this summer," Kosar said. "This should be a very interesting season."
MEADOWBROOK - Colts' head coach Mel Pesuit has a large number of letter winners back, but still "the Colts will field a comparatively young team," according to the veteran mentor.
"We have many questions that need to be answered, but hard work by several players over the summer has made some of those questions not quite so baffling," Pesuit continued. "Numbers are our biggest issue since we only have nine kids out."
All-Ohioan Matt Miller has graduated along with Joey Ferguson, Alex Gaton, Johnny Sherman and Eli Stone.
Junior two-year letterman Nate Frencik leads the way for the Colts. Other returning letterman are Ian West and Damon Moore.
The balance of the squad includes Johnny Barba, Josh Rogers, Tim Haynes, Zach Clar, Taylor Gander and Carter McManaway.
MONROE CENTRAL - Head coach Ryan Rosnick begins his seventh season with the Seminoles' program and has one of his biggest teams - in terms of numbers - in quite some time.
"The number of young players, who are interested in golf, is a great thing because we've been low in the past," Rosnick said. "The future looks good for us because we have no one older than a sophomore, which means we can only get better and improve on our games."
The Seminoles' team consists of 10 players and nine of them are sophomores.
The group consists of Tanner Burkhart, Evan Blackstone, Gage Ash, Ethan Groves, Micah Roberts, Victoria Price, Emily Williamson, Bret Tomlin and Ryan King. The lone frosh on the squad is Dustin Graham.
"Tanner should be our number one player," Rosnick said. "He worked hard in the summer to get better and take over that role. Evan, Gage and Ethan will round out the top four as each shows promise and improvement from last year."
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Red Devils had a monumental season in 2011 and they're back seeking even more as four of their top five players return and they were the beneficiary of a talented transfer from Marietta.
"This is our time," said Red Devils' golf coach Rick Oberdick, who is embarking on his ninth season. "We've had a lot of success over the past three seasons mainly due to the hard work, dedication and talents of our four returning seniors."
The Red Devils approached last season as they had no number one, but instead had five number one players and that's once again the way they're looking at the season as Zach Keylor, Adam Jeffries, Caden Myers and Jared Burghy all return off brilliant seasons.
Along with the graduated Brice Holler, who is now playing at Wheeling Jesuit University, the Red Devils got to the Division II OHSAA State Golf Tournament where they finished eighth in the state.
"We did lose a very valuable senior in Brice, but we have inherited an extremely talented and dedicated junior in Seth Vannoy."
Vannoy will step right into the Red Devils' lineup.
"If we're going to return to the state and improve on our eighth-place finish at the state tournament, it will require us to have five number one players," Oberdick said.
Senior Dylan Campbell and junior Michael Eaton, an all-Ohio swimmer, are the sixth and seventh players.
"Our success has brought many athletes to the program, so we will be participating in a full varsity and reserve schedule," Oberdick said.
The balance of the roster includes: seniors Jimmy Patrizi, Wes Miller, Turner Provost; junior Nate Teater; sophomores Zac Lloyd, Josh Purman, Chris Clark, Joel Giffin and freshman Chase Weithe.
"Our kids have dedicated their summers to playing in some of the best tournaments to prepare for the season," Oberdick said. "They're the best of friends, the best of teammates and they're ready for this to be 'our time.'"
SHADYSIDE - The Tigers had a changing of the guard as Mike Beck takes over the Orange program from Corey Martin.
"We had an up-and-down season last year, but I have high expectations for this group," Beck said.
The Tigers boast one of the area's premier player in senior Adam Stupak, who was a district qualifier and all-OVAC performer. He captured the OVGL medalist crown.
Two other seniors expected to contribute are Jared Brooks and Nathan Edgar.
The remainder of the roster is comprised of sophomores Jake Gregan and Nick Ferrelli.
"We had some kids who put a lot of time in this summer and I look for some major improvement from them," Beck said.
Beck is being assisted by Jared Andes and former Shadyside High A.D. Gary Cunningham.
UNION LOCAL - The Jets were in a re-build mode last season with three freshmen starters, but fifth-year head coach Mark Hissrich thinks the progress they made at the end of the season could carry over.
"I expect the three sophomores to all bring in better scores this year after having a season under their belts," Hissrich said.
The Jets' leader is senior Trevor Mudrak, who is seeking his fourth letter on the links.
Juniors Aaron Bolt and Tristan Bruce are out for the golf squad for the first time.
The aforementioned sophomore class is comprised of Shane Billetter, Jarret Causby and Tucker Fenstamaker.
"We'll again depend on Trevor to carry the scoring load," Hissrich said. "He's dedicated his summer to working on his golf game and I think our newcomer, Tristan Bruce, has a lot of potential."
The lone Jet lost to graduation was Josh Lucas.
WHEELING CENTRAL - The Maroon Knights are seeking a turnaround year as former Wheeling Nailer Grant Van Laar assumes the role of head coach for the Knights.
"I don't know much about the 2011 season, but they did underachieve and should have been better than what they finished up at the end of the season," Van Laar said.
The team features just one senior in John McFarland, who is out for the first time.
The Knights' top five is expected to consist of junior Thomas Stanley, junior Justin Leonard, McFarland, freshman Freddie Fitzsimmons and John Haley.
"Our expectations for the season is a top five finish in the state and to compete with Park for the city championship - or at least make them earn it and not give it away and hand it to them," Van Laar said. "In all of our matches this year, we want to win. Our goal is to finish top five of every tournament we enter. We have a young and talented squad and if we play smart this year, we might just sneak up on some teams."
WHEELING PARK - The Patriots have been one of the premier programs in both the Ohio Valley and state of West Virginia for several years.
Don't expect any letup from Coach Don Headley's veteran, but still youthful, squad in 2012.
"We're happy with the direction everything is going," Headley said. "We've got our eyes on the prizes (OVAC and state titles), but we know it's going to be tougher, so we'll have to grind a little bit harder."
The Patriots lost a trio of quality players in Jacob Carpenter, Eli Lambie and Ryan Loos.
However, they do boast one of the nation's premier players in junior Thadd Obecny, who is the two-time defending big-school OVAC and state champion. He's drawing major college attention as he's already visited Ohio State, Duke and a host of others.
"Thadd just keeps getting better," Headley said. "He averaged a 73 as a freshman, 71 as a sophomore, so we're excited to see what he can do this season. He's played all over the country. He's very focused and knows what he wants to do."
Sophomore Cole Hand is the Patriots' number two player, but he'd be a number one for nearly every other team in the area. Frosh Dylan Wojcik is penciled as the third man after a splendid summer of action. Senior Scotty Hand is the fourth man, while frosh Hunter Bryan is the fifth player.
The Patriots will once again challenge themselves with a highly competitive schedule, including tournaments in Columbus and Cincinnati.