PREBLE COUNTY — Expectations are high for some of the county’s golf teams. At National Trail, Makenna Jones will be seeking her fourth straight trip to state, while attempting to help her team get back for the second straight season. Eaton’s boys team has a new coach and Eaton’s girls move up to Division I.
Jones looking to lead Blazers back to state
Makenna Jones will be looking to lead National Trail’s girls golf team back to state.
Jones, a three-time state qualifier, returns for her senior season and expectations are high once again.
First-year coach Gene Eyler takes over a team that won a sectional title and finished as district runner-up last season.
The Blazers return five of their top seven players from last season.
Jones, the team captain, is a 3-year letter winner, 3-time state qualifier, defending CCC Medalist of the Year, Sectional medalist, district medalist, and finished 14th at state.
Eyler said Jones will be counted on for her leadership and experience.
“Makenna Jones will provide us with strong, senior leadership over the course of the season,” he said. “Her summer tournament play has strengthened her physical and mental games by competing against some the best players in the country. This included playing against an international field at famed Doral Country Club in Miami, Florida.”
Junior Cait Gilland is a 2-year letter winner, shot best scores of last year during tournament time to help get to state.
“Cait Gilland continues her steady play where she left off at the end of last season. Her calm demeanor allows her to play at her pace and not lose focus on the task at hand,” Eyler said. “She will be our third golfer as her improvement continues from summer practices.”
Sophomore Katelyn Hines shot two of her three season best scores at District and State meets. She played several summer tournaments to strengthen her game.
“Katelyn Hines will be close behind as our second golfer. She, too, has strengthened her game over the summer,” Eyler said. “Added distance on her tee shots is giving her a better look at the green for her approach shots enabling her to reach more greens in regulation.
Sophomore Brooklyn Middleton is in just her second year of playing. She has shown vast improvement over the summer, has lowered her personal best scores in each of first 3 tournaments this year.
“Brooklyn Middleton is filling our number four spot,” Eyler said. “Only a second year golfer, she has picked up her game during the off season. This has shown up this season by breaking her personal best in each of our first three tournaments. She could figure greatly in the outcome of our season.”
Sophomore Avery Rutan is another another second year player. She has worked very hard over summer to get herself ready for this season and had personal best score in first tournament this year.
“Avery Rutan, another second year player, will anchor us in the fifth playing position,” Eyler said. “Steady improvement over the summer enabled her to open the season with her personal best score. Improving her short game will allow her to reach levels she may not have expected for herself this year.”
Eyler expects the race for a conference title to be tight.
“Once again the CCC will be a closely bunched group of teams. We have matched up well against CCC teams in our first three tournaments this year,” he said. “We are solid with our top three players, so many matches will depend on our fourth and fifth scores. Our hope is to build our momentum toward the CCC tournament in mid-September at Stillwater Valley Golf Course.”
Lucas to lead Eaton boys program
Eaton’s boys program underwent a coaching change since last fall as veteran coach Randy Titkemeyer retired and handed over the reigns to former Eagle Derek Lucas.
Lucas is just the fourth coach in program history following in the footsteps of Dick Wells, Dan Lucas (Derek’s dad) and Titkemeyer.
Eaton finished fourth in the Southwestern Buckeye League’s Southwestern Division last season.
Eaton returns junior Travis Pittman, who be returning for his third varsity season.
Ainesleigh Elstro (Jr.) also returns with varsity experience. She will play in a few boys matches in addition to her girls schedule.
Nate Crammer saw some varsity action last year and will be back as a junior.
Newcomers include Henry Kochensparger, Dawson Brubaker, Kameron Sandifer, Devon McKee, and Ty Crammer who are all making the jump to the varsity level this year.
“We are looking to compete with the other SWBL teams this year. Will rely on the experience of Pittman and Elstro to lead the team in league matches,” Lucas said.
Overall, Lucas said his is looking for his team to show improvement as the season progresses.
“With a lot of inexperienced players, we are looking to improve throughout the season. Hopefully will gain valuable experience on how to play competitive golf,” Lucas said. “Many players have already set personal record scores thus far, and we hope to continue that.”
Lucas said he excited about taking over the program.
“(I’m) looking forward to leading the Eaton Golf program,” he said. “I learned to play golf with the Eaton team when my dad was coaching, played four years for Randy Titkemeyer. I am excited to take over the program and eventually build it back to a league contender.”
Eaton girls move up to D-I
Tim Appledorn returns for his eighth season as a golf coach at Eaton and third as the girls coach.
This season the Eagles move up to compete in Division I. Eaton was three girls over the limit to play in Division II.
Last year, the Eagles were 2-6 in dual matches.
Despite the move to up Appledorn is expecting big things from his team.
“I have big expectations this year as I have all 5 players back from last year on a team that finished 9th in the D-2 sectional tournament,” he said. “This year we move to D-I so the competition is historically stronger in D-1. Would love for the team to make a run to the district tournament.”
Eaton will be led by junior Ainesleigh Elstro, a two-year letter-winner and district qualifier last season.
Also back are sophomore Kyla Mize, junior Alina Fore, junior Carly Bricker and senior Hikaru Sato.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH