Area prep golfers set to tee it up for season

MARTINS FERRY — The first high school sport of the 2017-18 school year begins this week around the Buckeye State.

Prep golf action heats up as many area players will take part in a pre-season scramble at Belmont Hills Country Club on Monday with official matches slated to begin later in the week.

Many players have spent their summers honing their skills and playing on a variety of junior tours with sights set on late September. The OHSAA’s golf tournaments for Divisions II and III are slated for the week of Sept. 25 with district play a week later. The Division II state tournament will be held at Northstar Golf Resort in Sunbury, while Division III will compete at the Scarlet Course on the campus of Ohio State University.

Area ‘major’ tournaments include the OVAC, Buckeye 8 and Ohio Valley Golf League Championship. The OVAC will once again be played at Oglebay Park. Classes 1A and 2A will be combined into one division. It will compete on the Crispin Center layout on Sept. 12. Up the road at Spiedel on that date, the 4A class will compete.

The 3A and 5A champions will be crowned on Sept. 14 at Crispin and Spiedel, respectively.

The Buckeye 8 tournament will once again be conducted over two days. The opening round is slated for Cadiz Country Club on Aug.18 and the final round will be staged on Sept. 1 at Belmont Hills Country Club. The OVGL championship event will be played at Crispin on Sept. 21.

Here’s a capsule look at the schools that returned their information:

BARNESVILLE — Experience and talent are a welcome sight for any team. As Jerry Robinson begins his 18th season at the Shamrocks’ helm, he’s fortunate to have both.

Barnesville returns four lettermen, including three who have earned multiple awards.

“We have a nice mixture of veterans and youth,” Robinson said. “The kids have a great attitude and have been very coachable. We didn’t perform very well in the postseason last year and I am challenging the kids to finish strong.”

Senior Davey Wells is the unquestioned leader of the Shamrocks. He’s a three-year mainstay who earned second-team all-Eastern District last season and played in the district tournament. He was the OVAC Class 3A runnerup medalist.

“Davey is the hardest worker I’ve ever coached and he’s really improved his leadership as he’s mentoring the younger players,” Robinson said. Sophomore Payne Johnson had a solid rookie season and has spent much of the summer competing in different events, including posting a victory in the Crystal Springs Tournament last month.

Juniors Bailey Bauman, Tyler Willison and sophomore Bryce Farrabee are battling for the third through fifth spots in the Shamrocks lineup. Freshman Nathan Byler is expected to be the sixth player.

BRIDGEPORT — Jeff Herink takes over a still relatively new, but successful Bulldogs program after spending last season as Rob Zitzelsberger’s assistant.

The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they finished second in the OVAC and qualified for the Division III district tournament as a team. However, two key cogs — Dylan Nowakowski and Matt Herink — graduated.

“Our teams goals are to improve each week and gain experience from each match,” Herink said. “We hope to build enthusiasm of the young players.”

The Bulldogs feature nary a senior nor sophomore. Four juniors and five freshmen comprise the team.

The junior class consists of Tommy Fulton, Kevin Herink, Angela Sommer and Jason Sommer. All earned a letter last season.

The newcomers to the program include: Cooper Dulesky, Dylan Gregoric, Brennan Meager, Adam Sommer and Timmy Stanton.

Bridgeport’s home course is Oglebay Park’s Crispin Center. Herink is being assisted by Jay Sommer.

BUCKEYE LOCAL — It’s been a process to re-build the Panthers’ golf program, but the work appears to be on its way to paying off.

Head coach Dave Cybulski welcomes back his entire team from a 2016 campaign in which it finished with a .500 record.

“We should show improvement,” Cybulski said.

The Panthers have nine players out for the team, including three seniors. Austin Anderson and George Lollathin are expected to be two of the Panthers’ low scorers, while juniors Blake Ring-Fish and Emily Holzopfel are the leaders in the junior class.

The balance of the roster includes: senior James Mills, juniors Jordyn Spencer, Michaela Green, sophomores Sean Kubic and Bryan Blazeski.

Cybulski’s assistant coach is Jim Berze.

BUCKEYE TRAIL — The Warriors are heading for a new league and have plenty of experienced players to put on display.

Head coach Mike Castello begins his 14th season returns basically his entire team, which he said had “major growing pains” in 2016.

“We had eight players and none of whom had varsity experience and seven of them were first-year players,” Castello said.

“Most of the kids have been working hard since early spring and many of the players played in local tournaments this summer to gain invaluable real-time experience that will help them in the regular season.”

The Warriors are headed for the Inter-Valley Conference and will no longer play in the Ohio Valley Golf League.

Leading the way for Trail will be sophomore Rylie Smith, who was the teams’ No. 1 player last season. The lone senior is Kirsten Pierce.

The junior class consists of Elias Householder, Zane Lowry and Wilson Reitter. Sophomores include Noah Castello and Micah Milton. Freshmen are Alex Patterson and Chloe Eltringham.

HARRISON CENTRAL — Todd Dunlap begins his 12th season at the helm with a veteran cast set to tee it up.

The Huskies return five of their top six players from last season and still they’re fairly young with just one senior, Clint Heavilin.

Heavilin will be the Huskies’ leader this fall. He’s “put a lot of time into improving his game and playing competitive golf” according to his head coach.

Junior Cameron McIntosh is expected to contribute along with sophomores Cruz Capers, Nick Coffland and Jacob Hudson. All earned a letter last season.

Two other juniors looking to crack into the top five are Hunter Van Curen and Michael McGill. A large sophomore class also consists of Jory Marvin, Arik Carman, Hunter Stark, Maverick Shook and Hayden Wallace.

Three freshmen looking to make an impact are Samuel Santille, Trevor Thompson and Carley Rogers.

“We have four guys back with experience and the final varsity spots are up for grabs between numerous returnes and a couple of newcomers,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap will be assisted by Brian Gossett.

JOHN MARSHALL — Numbers are certainly a strength for the Monarchs. Head coach Dave Gaudino begins his seventh season with the largest team in school history.

Battling for a spot in the JM lineup are seniors Colton Patrello and Dustin Beazel. Beazel was a standout for Bishop Donahue last season. Junior Ryan Campbell will also contribute. Sophomore Cody Sprowls, who lettered last season, will also be in the mix. Another addition from the closing of Donahue is B.J. Stewart. Junior Brandon Neiswonger will also be in the mix.

The balance of the roster includes junior Merrick Weltz, sophomores Cody Bauer, Cody Grall, Malicky Schrupf, Brandon Harrison, Caleb Neely and freshmen Matthew Douglas, Garrett Gellner, Trent Hill, Aiden Schrumpf and Mikah Meyer.

The Monarchs will also field a full girls team. It’s comprised of junior Emily Nelson, Clarissa Edgar and Avery Wood. Seniors Montana Fonner, Paige Pethel and Jenni Whitfield are also in the mix along with sophomore Brilyn Gray.

This is the first all-girls team in the entire state of West Virginia. The Lady Monarchs will host an invitational on Sept. 12 at Wheeling Park.

Gaudino is being assisted by Don Gilbert and Bridget Jordan.

MARTINS FERRY — After a couple of seasons of not being able to field a “full” team, head coach Mike Beck begins his third season with seven players on the squad.

“The program is growing, which is great to see,” Beck said. “We have five freshmen and sophomores and some eighth graders are showing interest, too. I am expecting big things from our top three players.”

The only two players in the program with varsity experience are senior Thomas Orzolek, who is a three-year letterman. Sophomore Chuckie Schau also returns.

“Thomas has been working hard on his game and you’d never know that this was only Chuckie’s second season playing golf by watching him,” Beck said.

The Riders’ leader is expected to be freshman Luke Krol. He’s been a mainstay on area junior tours the last several summers.

“Luke has a chance to be really good,” Beck said. “The experiences he’s gained from the summer tours will help him. He has a chance to be one of the better players in our league, and I am looking forward to helping him achieve that.”

Freshmen Noah Kovalsky, Gary Stoffer, junior Jacob Ward and sophomore Alexander Elerick round out the Riders’ roster.

“We are a young team, but there is some talent here that’s going to be exciting to work with,” Beck said. “There will be some growing pains, but it will only help us down the road.”

RIVER — The Pilots underwent a coaching change during the offseason. Shadyside product Chris Beck takes over the reins of the Pilots and has a five-player roster.

Leading the way is junior Ridge Thompson, who qualified for the Division III District tournament last season. He’s joined by classmate Logan Alleman, who is the only other returning letterman on the team.

“This will be a learning year for both me as the coach and the players,” Beck said. “Both Ridge and Logan played on a couple of junior tours this summer and I am expecting big things from them. They’ve stepped up as leaders helping me with our first-time players.”

The balance of the roster includes: James Hendershot, Wes Hill and Daniel Swegard.

“There is some talent on this team that is going to be exciting to work with, but there will also be some growing pains,” Beck said. “I think those will only lead to growth and development as a team and individuals.”

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Young and experienced. Not a bad combination and it’s exactly what Michael McDonald has as he surveys his Red Devils’ golf roster.

The Red Devils claimed the Buckeye 8 championship last season and return a majority of the pieces from that team. Leading the way for St. C. are junior standouts Brendan Vucelich and Jacob Jeffries.

“Jacob and Brendan practice every day and know the game well,” McDonald said. “We’ll build the rest of the team with younger players.”

Others vying for a spot inside the Devils’ top four are juniors Jacob DeBertrand, Dustin Brak, Nathan Keenan, sophomores Ethan Bethel, Joey Patrizi and Justin Thalman. The lone freshman on the team is Kyle Kessler.

St. Clairsville also has two females in the program in senior Rhyanna Wiethe and Breanna Sproul.

SHADYSIDE — The Tigers will once field complete boys and girls squads as Coach Lisa Balog prepares for another season at the helm.

“Our roster is fairly young and new to the game,” Balog said. “We lost two strong players in Dalton Palmer and Brittnee Edgar. With that being said, the goal is to get better with every match, work on mechanics and just have fun with it. I see a lot of potential in some of our players, so time will tell.”

The Tigers’ boys squad features six players with only one older than a sophomore. The lone junior is Tanner Crozier. The tenth grade contingent is comprised of D.J. Hoge, Nico Bumba, Logan Gianangeli, Jason Vaughn and Dillon Krupa. Freshman Nate Milhoan rounds out the roster.

The girls squad consists of sophomores Janelle Rosier and Olivia Carpenter along with juniors Claire Palmer and Jenna Bowers.

“I just love that there’s such an interest in the game,” Balog said. “The roster seems to be growing every season.

UNION LOCAL — The Jets’ golf team is ready to begin the season with a roster of seven players under the watchful eye of head coach Eric Snodgrass.

The Jets will be led by Josh Britton, who was an honorable mention all-Buckeye 8 selection last year. Snodgrass is also high on newcomer Aiden Shugert, who is a sophomore.

The balance of the roster is comprised of senior Cassie Lucas, junior Bryson Utter, Chayce Townson, freshmen Ashton Paynter and Damien McCort.

“Hopefully with the kids improve from last year and the addition of Aiden, we can improve our finishes from last year,” Snodgrass said.