PREBLE COUNTY — County golf has already begun for four county schools participating this year, and they will be looking to have successful seasons.
Eaton boys off to strong start
Eaton boys golf coach Derek Lucas, whose team is coming off of a 1-10 season, said that the Eagles have a nice mix of returning and new players for their 2020 campaign.
“We are going to be competitive in every match and look to improve in each round,” Lucas said. “Our returning players will set the tone for the newcomers. We hope to get some progress from our young players to build the foundation of Eaton golf moving forward. Winning the Preble County Tournament was a great start to the season. We improved by 47 strokes from our first tournament and that hard work paid off. It was a great way to start the season with a special group of golfers.”
Senior Travis Pittman, a fourth-year varsity player who was SWBL honorable mention last season, helped Eaton get off to a strong start by winning the Preble County Tournament on Aug. 10 with an 82.
“He has worked very hard over the summer to get back into the swing of golf,” Lucas said.
Senior Kameron Sandifer is a second-year varsity player who finished fifth at the Preble County Tournament. Lucas said they will rely on his experience to help lead the Eagles through the season.
Another second-year varsity player, junior Henry Kochensparger, has shown great improvement, according to Lucas, and has worked extremely hard over the summer to be playing the best golf of his career currently.
“[Kochensparger] will battle for the top spot throughout the season,” he said. “Finished third at Preble County Tournament.”
He added that sophomore Ty Crammer also saw some varsity action last year and showed great improvement over the summer, earning the chance to play in the top six this season.
Additionally, Pittman, Sandifer, Kochensparger and Crammer will be joined by junior Kyla Miza and senior Ainesleigh Elstro from Eaton’s girls team as they contribute in some matches.
“[Ainesleigh] played in several boys matches as a junior and has contributed on the boys side this season,” Lucas said. “She will have a strong season with the girls team. Finished second in the Preble County Tournament.”
He said that Mize also has plenty of golf experience and has contributed on the boys side this season, and said he expects a big season from her on the girls team as well.
Eaton will also have four newcomers this season, and Lucas looks forward to what they will bring to the team.
Freshman Derek McCoy-Dudas: “Has some golf experience and will play in the top 6 to start the year,” he said.
Freshman Jacob Erbaugh: “New to the game but has shown plenty of progress already,” he said.
Sophomore Hayden Rose: “First year on the team and is very excited to be playing,” he said.
Freshman AJ Beeghly: “Showing progress in learning competitive golf,” he said.
Overall, Lucas believes that the Eagles should be able to compete in the SWBL this year.
”Two very strong teams sit at the top in Oakwood and Bellbrook,” he said. “It’s been 18 years now since the 2002 Eaton team knocked off Oakwood for the SWBL championship. We hope to be competitive with the league teams this year and perform well at the SWBL tournament.”
Eaton girls getting important piece back
Following a 7-5 season in 2019, Eaton girl’s golf will see one of their captains return to the green as they look to compete this year.
“I am looking forward to this season as I have a core group of four players coming back and they can do some good things on the course,” coach Tim Appledorn said. “We are still Division I for this year and that’s difficult as you’re competing against larger schools like Centerville, Beavercreek, Springboro to name a few.”
Returning starters for the Eagles include seniors Ainesleigh Elstro, Carly Bricker and Alina Fore as well as junior Kyla Mize.
“[Ainesleigh] is returning after only playing half a season last year due to injury,” Appledorn said. “She is a strong player and as a sophomore qualified for Division II districts. She was playing very well before the injury and I am glad she is back for this year. She has started this year playing well.”
He said that Bricker is a player who has improved every year and that he can see that already happening this year.
”I think she will surprise some people this year,” he said.
Appledorn added that Fore has been consistent and that she also has improved every year, and that he’s looking for good things from her.
“Kyla took over the No. 1 spot last year when Ainesleigh went down and she became a leader and overcame the pressure that comes with playing No. 1,” he said. “With her back at the No. 2 this year I think she will play more relaxed and have a breakout year.”
Newcomers for the Eagles include junior Macy Wright and freshman Karley Kleinberg.
Trail boys looking to improve
National Trail will be looking to improve under second-year coach Ramon Rutan coming off of a 2-9 conference record in 2019.
The Blazers will return two varsity players: senior Jesse Norton and sophomore Zachary Rutan.
Two newcomers will join Norton and Rutan: Chris Knapp, a sophomore who was on Trail’s junior varsity team last season, and Fletcher Davies, a freshman.
“The goal this season is for us to improve,” Rutan said. “We will have a hard time competing with the top teams in the conference with only four golfers, so improving and putting ourselves in a better position for future seasons is our main goal. We work on fundamentals at each practice, which will hopefully be the foundation of future development.”
Trail girls looking to stay competitive without Makenna Jones
After notching an 18-1 record and a CCC League Championship last season, National Trail’s girl’s golf team will look to continue that success while contending with the loss of Makenna Jones, Trail’s only individual state qualifier in 2019, to graduation.
“Overall this will be a totally different season from last year for us. Makenna Jones was a huge loss as she graduated last spring,” second-year coach Gene Eyler said. “In addition, projected No. 2 player Brooklyn Middleton moved to another district. We can still be competitive with our returning players so a lot will depend on how quickly Mary Welz and Jackie Arthur pick up the game.”
The two that Eyler is looking to quickly pick up the game are newcomers to National Trail this season: senior Mary Welz and sophomore Jackie Arthur.
“Mary decided to give golf a try this year and just started with the team in late June,” Eyler said. “She has a great attitude and is soaking up as much as she can about this very difficult game in a very short time. Mary will be in the No. 5 spot this year.”
Eyler said that Arthur just started playing this past June.
“Jackie went through the First Tee program of Richmond which is designed for new players,” he said. “She’s shown herself to be a quick learner of the basics and is showing steady improvement over the first two weeks of this new season. Jackie is currently playing the fourth spot on the team.”
Those will be the new additions to this Blazers, but Eyler’s team has plenty of returning talent from last year’s championship squad.
Senior Caitlin Gilland, a three-year letter winner, returns after being named honorable mention All-League last year.
“She held down the No. 3 spot all last season,” Eyler said. “Cait’s outstanding attitude and deadly putting stroke make her a formidable opponent on the golf course. She never gets flustered with herself and always remains positive regardless of the situation.”
Junior Katelyn Hines is a two-time letter winner and last year was named First Team All-League in a year where Eyler said there were many strong individual players.
“Katelyn gained valuable experience last year as the No. 2 golfer playing in matches with then-senior Makenna Jones,” he said.
Junior Avery Rutan, another two-time letter winner for National Trail, will return for the Blazers. She played in the number 5 roster spot last year and Eyler said that she had a very commendable season.
“She finished the season in grand fashion by firing her personal best 18-hole round in the [Southwest] District tournament over the very tough PipeStone course,” Eyler said. “She has worked very hard with an instructor to prepare herself for this year.”
Eyler said that Fort Loramie appears to be the team to beat this season, but that it should be evenly matched throughout the conference this year.
“Miami East also returns a strong team from their third place finish last year,” he said. “From there on it should be pretty wide open and very evenly matched. Trail should be very competitive among the remaining teams. Ansonia is also fielding a team this year so their standing is unknown.”
Shawnee contending with young roster
After a fifth place finish in the SWBL Buckeye Division last year with a 2-10 record (2-4 in the conference), Preble Shawnee will have to contend with less seniority this season.
“We lost three seniors from last year’s team, so we are somewhat young this year,” coach Ryan Klapper said.
He said that while the Arrows do not have any seniors this year, they do have five juniors coming back: Colton Groh, Ethan Woodard, Dane Klapper, Kurtis Anderson and Griffen Bridgeford.
“Colton was our second best golfer last year, so we are looking to build around him as all the juniors are back for their third year of golf,” he said.
He added that Josh Miller is back for his second season as a sophomore and that Garrett Rader is in his first season as a sophomore. Additionally, Jaydin Fields and Ashton Agnew are freshman that will play and round out the team.
“As our season has already started, Colton, Ethan, Dane and Jaydin have had some promising rounds as we look to compete with the top teams in our division,” Klapper said. “Their course management will play a big roll in how they score this year, as always, but it’s evident they have learned through their experience to this point to improve on that from the rounds we have already had.”
Klapper said that they are hopeful their season will continue amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will take it one day at a time and consider ourselves lucky because the the virus dangers are less for our sport than other sports,” he said.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles