High School Golf Preview: Youth will be served on the links


Prep sports return this week as golf season begins around the Ohio Valley.

The majority of local teams will once again compete in the Ohio Valley Golf League during the regular season. The OVAC will once again crown its champions at Oglebay Park in Wheeling.

The 1A and 2A classes will play on Tuesday, Sept. 10 on Crispin, while 4A will play that day as well up the road at the Jones Course. The 3A and 5A players will play on Thursday, Sept. 12 on Crispin and Jones, respectively.

The OHSAA postseason begins the week of Sept. 23 with sectionals. Districts will be held the following week and the state tournament will be held on Oct. 11 and 12.

Here’s a capsule look at area teams in which coaches returned their information:

BARNESVILLE (Boys) – The Shamrocks took their share of lumps last season, but veteran head coach Jerry Robinson brings back five lettermen and a solid cast of newcomers.

“The kids have played a lot of golf over the summer through various tournaments and camps,” Robinson said. “I think we’ll be much improved because of that.”

The Shamrocks’ roster will feature nary a senior and only one junior in Steven Christie. Seven sophomores and four freshmen comprise the squad. The sophomore class is led by lettermen Aspen Bauman, Jacob Carpenter, Corey Seneff, Sam Leach and Tyler Blackstone.

Battling for action are Dylan Kernan and Austin Drake. Frosh Jeb Plumly, Dillon Freeman, Ben Anderson and Matt Frazier round out the roster.

Robinson will be assisted by Nick Bauman.

BARNESVILLE (Girls) – History will be made this fall as the first-ever girls golf team in Shamrocks’ history will take to the course.

A few girls had played in the past, but with a roster of 10 players, Robinson had no choice but to put together a schedule for the girls.

“I am really excited about having a full girls’ team,” Robinson said. “I’ve received excellent support from our administration, athletic department, parents, community, local golf courses and other coaches in getting this started.”

The Lady Shamrocks will be led by junior Maci McEndree, who is a two-year letter winner. Sophomore Raenah Norris lettered last season, while Paige Hayes and Morgan Guthrie also return with a letter.

The balance of the roster includes freshmen Ciara Bauman, Makayla Flood, Lexie Thornton, Shay Batler, Courtney Davidson and Paige Wilson.

Since they’re the only full girls’ team in the Ohio Valley, Robinson had to piece together a schedule.

“We will be travelling a lot,” Robinson said. “We will be playing in five counties for our matches.”

The Lady Shamrocks will host the inaugural Ohio Valley Golf Invitational on Aug. 16 at Fairway River Links.

BEALLSVILLE – Jerry Brown begins his second season at the helm of the Blue Devils’ program with just four players on the squad.

However, Brown doesn’t want to hear about depth.

“It may be a concern, but everyone will need to up their games throughout the season,” Brown said. “Three of our returnees are lettermen, so we’re expecting them to lead us.”

The Blue Devils’ leader is senior veteran John Dietrich, who is seeking his fourth letter. He was an all-OVGL selection last season and will serve as the team captain.

“John is constantly working on his game and has shown much improvement in his game both mentally and physically,” Brown said.

Junior Jeremy Fisher returns along with sophomore Kyle Carpenter. Senior Jeremy Brown is out for the squad for the first time.

“Jeremy Fisher and Kyle are much improved and Jeremy Brown is playing solid for his first year out for the team,” Brown continued.

BRIDGEPORT – The fifth year of Bulldogs’ golf gets under way this week and head coach Ron Gill has a five-player roster that’s youthful.

“It’s going to be a learning experience for us,” Gill said. “We’ve got some kids who have played a good bit this summer and we’re excited to see what they can do. I think we’ll be a team that gets better as the season goes along.”

Leading the way for the Bulldogs is senior Zach Herink, who Gill is “expecting a lot from.”

Juniors Parker Dyson and Toni Bugaj will be in the mix along with sophomore Jeff Tennant and freshman Dylan Nowakowski.

BUCKEYE TRAIL – The Warriors are coming off their most successful seasons in their school history in which they won the OVAC, PVC and advanced to the district tournament. Plus, they posted a 33-5 record in dual matches.

However, the Warriors and head coach Mike Castello lost a solid trio of players in Jessi Roe, Austin Warehime and Justin Wilson to graduation.

Senior Jed Burga is the Warriors’ top returnee after an all-Eastern District season.

Sophomores Evan Archer, Will Davis and Jacob Markel round out the squad and all are embarking on their first varsity seasons.

“With only four players on the team, each of these guys will be expected to work even harder on their golf games,” Castello said.

HARRISON CENTRAL – The Huskies have three players back from their top five off a squad that enjoyed a strong 2012 campaign.

However, as Todd Dunlap begins his 10th season at the helm, he’s approaching it with more of a cautious optimism.

“We’re still very young and experienced as a group,” Dunlap said. “However, as we continue to develop and improve, we are becoming more and more optimistic about the future.”

Attempting to replace district qualifier and four-year letterman Drew Horn as well as three-year mainstay James Thompson will be no easy task.

Leading the way for this season are junior Austin Kowalski, who is a two-year letterman. Sophomores Bryce Walrath, Evan Ossman and Jarett Edwards all played varsity last season.

“Those four should be solidly in our top five, but that fifth spot is up for grabs,” Dunlap said. “All of those kids have put time into developing their game and it’s shown in their improvement in just a season of competitive golf.”

The balance of the Huskies’ roster includes: juniors Matt Hawthorne and Kyle Neimeyer, sophomore Ralph Gillig and frosh Hunter Sloan and Zach Henry.

Dunlap is being assisted this season by Brian Gossett.

LINSLY – Expectations are once again high for the Cadets’ golf program, which brings back six of its top seven from an OVAC Class 3A runner-up squad for Coach Mark Zavatsky, who is beginning his 24th season at the helm.

“We’re very excited for the season,” Zavatsky said. “We have so many contributors returning that we think we have the makings of a pretty good team. The kids will need to continue to improve. They’ve worked hard on their games in the summer.”

Leading the way for the Cadets is junior David Coram, who is the team captain and averaged 38.4 for 9 holes a season ago.

He’ll be joined by junior Casey O’Korn, sophomore Jordan Patrick, junior Steve Songer, junior Matthew Schwarz and junior Ted McDonald.

The balance of the Cadets’ roster includes: juniors Jacob Caimano, Zach Spurrier, Aleksa Thomas, Cameron Thompson and Denier Weech; sophomores Reese Boyd and Luke Edgerton and freshmen Lucretia Shumate and Page Walbert.

The lone loss the Cadets suffered was Nicole Gray.

Mike Church is back as Zavatsky’s top assistant.

MARTINS FERRY – The Purple Riders enjoyed another brilliant season in 2012, but many of the faces who contributed are no longer around.

Lost to graduation were: Kaitlyn Bliss, Andrew Chlon, Taylor Shane, Chase Stuckey and Zac Riggenbach, all of whom were key multiple-season contributors. Also gone is head coach Joe Kosar, who retired following last season.

Taking over the Purple program is Stacey Bliss.

“Generally, the team is quite young with several golfers who are just learning the game, but are determined to work hard to improve,” Bliss said. “This season looks to be one of rebuilding as the team has lost both experience and leadership.”

Bliss is relying on sophomore Joel Shane as the Purple Riders’ leader. He has had a very solid summer on the junior golf circuit and saw some varsity action last season, earning a letter.

Brandon Bliss and Logan Miller are the only other two returnees with experience.

The Riders, who feature nary a senior or freshman, feature sophomores Takota Haggerty and Max Presalinski. Juniors Ryder Hagan and Kyle Rine round out the squad.

Bliss is being assisted by Brandon Shane.

MEADOWBROOK – One of the area’s most consistent programs, the Colts return a wealth of experience.

Head coach Mel Pesuit begins his 21st season at the helm with a squad that returns seven lettermen.

“Our expectations are high,” Pesuit said. “Several of the players have worked very hard this summer, so the 2013 season should be a productive one. I think we can compete for the OVAC, ECOL and sectional titles.”

Senior Nate Frencik returns as the team’s leader. Junior Damon Moore, seniors Ian West, Josh Rogers, Johnny Barba, sophomores Zach Clair and Taylor Gander round out the returning top seven.

Freshman Devin Webster is expected to make a run toward contributing after a solid junior high season.

“There are some very good teams in the Eastern District and locally,” Pesuit said. “We will see teams like John Glenn and East Liverpool several times during the season and we’ll use those teams as a barometer to our progress. I think East Liverpool is the favorite in the OVAC, but, rest assured, the Colts will prepare and not back down from the challenges ahead.”

MONROE CENTRAL – The Seminoles have just four players out for the squad, which creates a “learning year” for the players and head coach Ryan Rosnick.

“We had several players choose not to come out, but the four we have are very hard workers and we’ll look to improve as the season progresses,” Rosnick said. “I am excited for the season because all of the kids are super and we have great support from their parents.”

Leading the way for the Seminoles is junior Evan Blackstone. The lone senior on the squad is Micah Roberts. Junior Victoria Price and sophomore Dustin Graham round out the Seminoles’ squad.

RIVER – Experience can’t always be measured in age as Pilots’ golf coach Justin Fetty will attest.

The Pilots return four of their top six players from last season and just one senior is among them.

“All four of returnees are varsity lettermen,” Fetty said. “I strongly feel we can compete for an OVAC title this year even with a young roster. I really like the direction our team is heading and can only hope that we continue to make progress as the season goes along.”

Leading the way for the Pilots is senior Jason Miller, sophomore Blaze Amos, junior Mikayla Newman and sophomore Brandon Smith.

The balance of the roster includes: Ryan Ludolph, Isaac Curtis and Jacob Shreve.

“We have some obstacles to overcome, as a result of the school district’s levy failing,” Fetty said. “We’ve held two fundraisers just to keep our team afloat and they’ve been very successful. I think the participation fee took a toll on the number of kids who could come out for all of the sports. It’s stressful, but it’s the world we live in and we’ll figure it out.”

Fetty is being assisted by Eric Stephens.

SHADYSIDE – Second-year head coach Mike Beck is approaching the season as a “rebuilding year” after his Tigers lost Adam Stupak, Nathan Edgar and Jared Brooks to graduation.

“Last year was a pretty decent season for us, but also disappointing because we had two kids who we thought had a pretty decent chance to make it out of the sectional and came up short,” Beck said. “These seniors still had great seasons for us and they’ll definitely be hard to replace.”

The Tigers boast a pair of two-year returning lettermen in Jake Gregan and Nick Ferrelli, both of whom are juniors.

“Jake played well, in spurts, last year and has improved over the summer,” Beck said. “Nick’s really been working hard to improve his game. Our other four players are beginning golfers.”

Junior Zach Frizzi is out for the sport for the first time. Three freshmen – Dalton Palmer, Brittnee Edgar and Colby Sherwood – round out the Tigers’ roster.

“They’ve been working hard this summer, learning the game and working on their swings,” Beck said. ” We’re looking for them to just improve their games every day. They’re young but I see potential in all of them. We’re a young team but we are looking to come out and compete everyday and improve throughout the season.”

Beck is assisted by Jared Andes and Patrick O’Donnell.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Red Devils entered the 2012 season with a myriad of expectations and failed to disappoint. They finished fifth in the Division II state tournament and won the district championship.

Gone from that team, however, are mainstays Zach Keylor, Adam Jeffries, Jared Burghy and Caden Myers. Other graduation losses include: Dylan Campbell, Wes Miller, Jim Patrizi and Turner Provost.

Also departed is that Red Devils’ team’ head coach. Rick Oberdick retired after last season and he’s been replaced by a co-coaches in Joe Jeffries and Melanie Eaton.

“Last year’s team was a culmination of many hours of hard work, not just during the season, but throughout their entire four years,” Jeffries said. “Coach Oberdick helped my scheduling multiple tournament opportunities for our team to achieve the success it did.”

The lone holdover from the Devils’ top five is senior Seth Vannoy, who was an all district player last year after posting a 77 at the district tourney.

“Seth has played well in multiple tournaments this summer and has improved even more on his 78 average,” Jeffries said.

Two other returning lettermen should be in the mix in seniors Nathan Teater and Michael Eaton. Both averaged just over 44 strokes for 9 holes last fall. Senior Joel Giffin, who will double as a football player as well, is also in the mix.

St. C. gained a transfer in two-year letterman Dalton Showalter, who was a contributor at Linsly the past two seasons.

The balance of the squad includes: juniors Josh Purman, Zac Lloyd, Chris Clark, sophomores Chase Wieth, Zach Wood, freshmen Ryan Petrozzi, Michael Schaefer, Josh Robinson, Alex Madzia and Zane Talley, who just moved to the district from Texas.

“We’re going to rely on Seth and our three seniors with experience,” Jeffries said. “Dalton Showalter will be a nice addition and a lot of the other kids have experience on the JV team and will be looking for opportunities to move up to some varsity matches. We’re anxious to get the young kids out on the course and see what they can do.”

UNION LOCAL – Mark Hissrich begins his sixth season at the helm of the Jets’ golf program with a solid cast of 11 players in the mix.

The Jets are led by five returning lettermen, three of whom are still underclassmen.

Junior Jarret Causby and classmate Tucker Fenstamaker are the only two, two-year lettermen in the program.

Senior Tristan Bruce is a returning lettermen and is expected to battle with Causby for the Jets’ top spot. Senior Aaron Bolt and junior Shane Billetter have each earned a letter and are expected to round out the top five.

Sophomore Lucas Robb is also expected to challenge for one of the top spots.

Other newcomers include: senior Bryan May, sophomore Kaleb Yonak, freshmen Jon Flood, Bryce Gatti and Chase Whiteley.

Hissrich is being assisted by Eric Snodgrass.

WHEELING PARK – The Patriots begin the 2013 season with the same goals as always. Compete well and prevail in the OVAC and state tournaments.

Coach Don Headley begins his sixth season at the helm with a squad that appears prime to be right in the thick of the chase.

“We’ll be very deep this year,” Headley said. “And we’ll only have one senior playing. We have a lot of tournament experience and most of our guys have played in events from California, Kentucky, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and many other states. We’ll be tested early. We’re in 30 team tournaments in Parkersburg, Wellsburg, Columbus and Cincinnati.”

The Patriots will get after it quickly. They’ll play six tournaments in the first days of the season.

That should be nothing for Patriots’ senior leader Thadd Obecny, who begins his final prep campaign after a summer in which he competed basically all over the nation and just wrapped up play in the PGA Junior Championship in Virginia.

Obecny, who is bound for Central Florida University next year, was the state champion in 2010 and 11, but finished second to teammate Cole Hand last season.

Hand is a junior and owns a state title and runner-up finish.

Sophomores Dylan Wojcik, Hunter Bryan, Hunter Travis, Lizzy Douglas and Freddie Fitzsimmons are all in the mix for the next few spots.

Frosh Kyle Wenzel and Jared Jordan should also be in the mix.

The balance of the Patriots’ roster consists of senior Jack Hawkins, sophomore Luke Hawkins, sophomore Bobby Custer and frosh Dante Marra.

“The key to the season will be consistency and team work,” Headley said. “There will be a lot of young golfers playing in big-time events, so they’ll have to build their confidence.”

The Patriots are dedicating their season to Randy Stephens and Randy Tschappett who died last year. Both were seniors on the 2012 team.

“We’re going to be playing with heavy hearts,” Headley said. “Every shot we hit and every round we play will be done in their honor this season.”