Boys' golf teams have bright futures
Several area boys’ golf teams have designs on an extended season. Staff writer Scott Richey takes a closer look at five of those squads:
St. Thomas More
The Sabers finished the first round of last year’s Class 1A state tournament in second place — five shots behind eventual champs El Paso-Gridley, but the pressure mounted in the second round, and St. Thomas More dropped to seventh. With four of the team’s top players returning — and retaining the memory of last year’s state tournament — the Sabers are in position this fall to earn that trip back to Bloomington.
“We probably overachieved a little bit on that first round last year and underachieved on that last round,” St. Thomas More coach Mark Tate said. “Our goals and expectations are to get back to state and then have a good time at state this year.”
Leading the way for the Sabers will be returning No. 1 golfer Chris Tate — the coach’s son. And Mark Tate said his No. 1 golfer is already ahead of last year’s start and has shaved a stroke off his average early in the fall.
Also back for the Sabers are juniors Michael Kehl and Tyler Vodacek and another senior leader in Wes Kramer.
The Blue Devils qualified for state in each of the past three seasons, with a runner-up finish in 2011 the highlight. Leading the way in each of those state appearances was Andy Bott, who is now golfing for Marshall University. The transition, though, to the post-Bott era has gone fairly smoothly.
“It’s a big adjustment, but I’ve been very happy with the work ethic of our team this summer,” Bismarck-Henning coach Terry French said. “David Warren has really picked up the slack. He has worked his tail off all summer long going to tournaments and taking lessons.”
Warren is the only member of the current Blue Devils team to have played on all three state teams. He’s joined by fellow seniors Noah Campbell and Josh Heidrick, while the Blue Devils’ youth contingent — three underclassmen round out their current top six — is led by freshmen Hunter Keith and Skyler Mitchell.
“Obviously their goal is to make it back,” French said of qualifying for another state tournament without Bott leading the way. “We can keep this thing rolling.”
Chargers’ coach Mike Wallner knows what his team can accomplish on the golf course. After all, he has seen its players compete — a lot. Centennial returns its entire top eight from last year’s Class 2A Mahomet Regional championship team, including Christian Khachaturian, who Wallner said was probably the best player on the team the past three years.
“This group of kids this year is a pretty special group,” Wallner said.
Centennial’s senior class also includes four other players — Mike Braverman, Isaac Overman, John Rodawig and Ben Khachaturian — that played on last year’s regional championship team. Juniors Wyatt Small and Cole Hagan are also in the mix for the Chargers, but Wallner said it’s Overman that has made the most improvement from a year ago.
The Knights finished third in their Class 1A regional last fall. Half of that team is gone, but the fact three of his top four golfers return has Blue Ridge coach Lynn Hawkins feeling optimistic about this season. That two of those golfers — senior Mason Potts and junior Cory Jayne — qualified for state helps solidify that feeling.
“In addition to those guys, I have a senior (Justin Jamison) that’s very capable of shooting good rounds,” Hawkins said. “We’ll be OK. If I can get one of my three underclassmen that are playing 4-5-6 to throw in a decent score, we’ll be OK.”
Blue Ridge’s success though, starts with Potts and Jayne. And they couldn’t be more different players. Potts is methodical. He follows his routine, and it works. Jayne is a power player and takes more chances. That has worked, too.
“Potts plays so much golf, you never have to worry about what he’s going to do next,” Hawkins said. “He’s capable of coming in with a 34, but he rarely shoots above 40. He lives and breathes golf. That’s his thing.”
Jeff Butts called the beginning of his first season as the Maroons’ head coach “a whirlwind.” But Butts, the teaching professional at the University of Illinois Golf Course, said he was interested in getting back to coaching at the high school level after he worked unofficially with Judah Christian golfers in the early 2000s.
Butts inherited a young Maroons’ golf team — 12 of Central’s golfers are underclassmen — but there’s some talent in that group. Sophomore Ben Carnahan, a sectional qualifier last fall, has been the Maroons’ leader early this season.
“He can certainly do better, but he’s still probably our most consistent player,” Butts said of Carnahan. “Probably mentally, he plays better and holds it together better than most. His mechanics are pretty sound, too.”
Butts said he has also been pleased by the play of his seniors Luke Meyer, Zach Bauman and P.J. Garinger this fall, but what he said would benefit the bulk of his young roster is more time put in during the offseason.
“I’d like to see our players playing in more tournaments,” Butts said. “I think that’s where these kids get better.”