By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
and Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
TROY — For practically Mark Evilsizor’s entire tenure as Troy boys golf coach, he’s entered each season knowing he could count on at least one near-par score every match.
And though the big question for the Trojans this year will be how they cope with the graduation of state qualifier Holden Scribner, the team graduated a total of five players from last year’s squad, meaning with two varsity players returning Troy will basically be getting a fresh start as it enters the first year of play in a new league.
Scribner had helped lead the team for the past four years, leading the team with a nine-hole average of 37.07 last year and finishing his career in 14th at last year’s Division I state tournament.
“Even before Holden, we had Nate Uhlenbrock, too, and Troy more before that. So there’s been quite a few years where I knew I was always going to get a 34 score or scores,” Evilsizor said. “So this year’s going to be a little different.”
Ryan Dowling and Henry Johnston both will return to the Trojan lineup this year to help offset those graduation losses. Dowling, a junior, had Troy’s second-best nine-hole average last year, sitting in 10th in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division standings with a 43.82. And Johnston, a sophomore, was able to work his way into the senior-laden lineup as a freshman fairly often.
“Ryan has lettered for two years, and Henry was able to letter last year. We’re going to have to lean on those guys,” Evilsizor said. “Those are two guys that are going to have to play well for us. We’re not going to count on that one close-to-par score every time, but those two will be able to get there in a number of matches — it just won’t be as consistent as we’re used to when you have a Holden Scribner. But both of them are primed to have a big breakout year.
“We lost five guys from last year’s team, but we did have seven play varsity throughout the year. It’s a different feel, but we sat down after tryouts and I talked to the kids. These other guys have played JV for a couple of years, and it’s time for them to step up.”
A quartet of juniors — Tag Bender, Kellen Glover, Owen Evilsizor and Zach Prouty — will also get the chance to show what they can do this season, while freshmen Aaron Colvin and Trayce Mercer will vie for playing time, as well.
“The most improved one of those juniors right now is probably Kellen. He’s hitting the ball straight off the tee every time — and that is a skill that will travel to every golf course we see this year,” Evilsizor said. “Tag has a beautiful swing, but he has some problems with spraying it left and right sometimes. And Owen is starting to turn a corner and has been getting more consistent. He’s always had a pretty good short game, and now he’s adding some distance to his shots. Zach is tall and has a lot of margin for error on his swing, but he can also probably hit the ball the furthest. We’ve just got to control that. But these guys are playing the best golf they’ve ever played.
“Those two freshmen were close in tryouts. They were right there. The improvement we’ve seen in those two is tremendous.”
And though the team will be in a new league this year, it will look very familiar.
Troy will compete in the newly-formed Miami Valley League’s Miami Division alongside old division rivals Butler, Tippecanoe, Piqua and Greenville. Sidney made the move to the MVL’s Valley Division and will compete against Fairborn, Stebbins, Xenia and West Carrollton.
“We’re excited for it, but in a lot of ways it doesn’t change a lot of what we do,” Evilsizor said. “We’ve been playing the same teams anyway. Butler will be good year in and year out, but right now Tippecanoe looks like the team to beat. They’ve got everybody back from last year, and they’re going to be really solid. But we’re going to get a good look at those teams over the next couple of weeks as we play in some invitationals.”
Troy shared the final GWOC American North Division title with Butler last season, the team’s first share of a division title since 2013. The MVL’s format will help the Trojans, though, according to Evilsizor, as there is no preseason tournament that counts toward the league standings — but regular season division matches will figure in.
“The fact that we don’t have a preseason tournament that counts will benefit this team, because I think it’s a team that’s going to keep getting better and better as the year goes on,” Evilsizor said. “In years past, you had to be firing on all cylinders right away. And I think by the end of September, about half of the standings come from the end-of-the-season tournament, and by then this team will no longer be inexperienced. I think they’ll be ready to play at a high level.
“We have three main goals: win an invitational, win the league title and make it to districts. And I definitely think those are attainable goals with this team. These guys understand that it’s their time, it’s their turn to step up and represent. I think they’re ready to do that.”
PIQUA — Andy Johnson returns as coach.
The Indians have six players on the roster, including three returning lettermen.
Seniors Mason Price and Kyler Kommer and junior Decker Jackson return for the Indians and will be joined by sophomore Evan Hensler and freshman Aiden Webster and Drew Hinkle.
Kommer averaged 49.9 for nine holes a year ago, while Price averaged 52.57 and Jackson 53.
“We will be relying on those three a lot,” Johnson said. “Mason (Price) has played a lot of golf this summer and has set some high goals for himself. We expect them to play well as they get in to swing of things. We have some young guys with a lot of potential. We are looking to be consistent.”
Johnson sees Tippecanoe as the favorite in the first year of MVL competition.
“I think Tipp is the team to beat,” he said. “They have gotten a lot stronger over the last couple years. Troy lost a lot and Butler lost Austin Greaser (the top golfer in the GWOC last year). I think we have the potential to be in the middle of the pack.”
TIPP CITY — Despite their youth, the Tippecanoe Red Devils made noise in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division’s final season, finishing third by 14 strokes behind Butler and Troy in the final postseason tournament.
Going into the Miami Valley League’s first year of existence, the Devils may just be the team everyone else is shooting for, with three all-league players returning to lead the way.
Nathan Gagnon is back for his junior season after posting the third-best nine-hole average in the division with 40.6 — behind only a pair of state qualifiers. Sophomore Matt Salmon had the fifth-best average in the division with 42.1 and sophomore Braydon Bottles was ninth-best with 43.5 in their freshmen season.
“We are excited about our upcoming golf season,” Tippecanoe coach Aaron Jackson said. “We return three all-conference players from our district-qualifying team last year. Nathan Gagnon, Braydon Bottles and Matt Salmon were on the All-GWOC American League team last year, and we’re looking forward to a great season from them.
“We also have a good group of players that are competing for varsity spots after the first day of tryouts. It’s going to be an exciting year for the golf team.”
PLEASANT HILL — Ryan Karn takes over as Newton’s boys golf coach after a successful run by Randall Jamison.
The Indians will be led by senior Kleyson Wehrley and junior Ross Ferrell.
“Pretty much all summer, those two guys have been our leaders,” Karn said.
Rounding out the 13-boy roster are senior Drew Bayer, juniors Alex Koon, Mitchell Montgomery, Andrew Whittaker and Jon Willoughby; sophomores Lane Bayer, Tryston Kelly, Carson Knupp and Jayden Luedeke; and freshman Hudson Montgomery and Razi Garber.
“We have a number of juniors, sophomores and freshman that have been turning in good scores,” Karn said. “These kids have been working really hard and I am really excited about the upcoming season to see what we can do. We are not going to have a JV team, but the other kids will play behind the varsity every night and if the other team has a JV team will compete with them.”
The Indians also have a new home course.
Newton will play at Piqua Country Club and the CCC tournament will be contested there as well.
“We contacted them (Piqua Country Club) about playing there and they were excited about it,” Karn said. “Paul (Piqua Country Club golf professional Paul Block) has been really good about working with us.”
Karn said he has no expectations as far as how the CCC will play out.
“Being my first year and not knowing the other teams and players, I really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I am just excited to see what we can do.”
• Miami East
CASSTOWN — Roger Davidson takes over the Miami East boys golf program this season, a program that returns most of its varsity lineup from last season.
Last year, the Vikings were second at the Cross County Conference tournament, knocking Newton — which went 12-0 during the regular season in the league — to third on the day and giving Tri-County North the overall championship. And this season, the Vikings are hoping to be one of the teams competing for the CCC title themselves.
Leading the way for the Vikings will be junior Sam Zapadka, who was the co-medalist of last year’s CCC tournament. He will be joined once again by seniors Ty Fetters and Cooper Elleman and fellow junior Andrew Bevan, as well as sophomore Noah King — all letterwinners from last year’s team.
New to the team will be junior Daniel Tucker and sophomore Zach Enz, who both played JV last year, and freshmen Luke Burnke, Collin Jennings, Eric LeMaster and Ethan Fine.
“We want to be competitive in the league and have a chance to win each night,” Davidson said. “This being my first year, I am not aware of who the teams to beat in our league are — but I do know that we are going to be competitive each night out. We want to play with good sportsmanship while representing Miami East, and we are going to improve each night and as the season progresses and enjoy a fun golf season.”
COVINGTON — Bill Wise returns as Covington coach.
The Buccaneers are a young team that is deep in numbers.
Returning from last year are senior Dylan Lucas and juniors Grant Humphrey and Jobe Morgan.
Rounding out the roster are junior David McCool, sophomores Adam Brewer, Garrett Fraley, Daniel Leistner and Zane Wise and freshman Brenden McDonough and Hunter Ray.
“We are going to count on the three guys returning,” Wise said. “We are a pretty young team. But, the good thing is we are going to be able to play a full JV schedule. We just want to improve as the season goes on.”
Wise sees Newton as the favorite in the CCC.
“I think Newton has to be the team to beat,” Wise said. “I think they are ahead of everyone else right now. We are hoping to finish in the top third of the conference.”
BRANDT — The Bethel Bees struggled with a young team last season. But those players got a year of experience under their belts, and the Bees will be aiming to take steps forward this year.
“With many returning golfers, our goal is to improve from last year’s league standing and compete and improve throughout the season,” said Bethel coach Brett Brookhart, who is entering his 26th year with the team.
Returning for the Bees are Alec Donahue, Ethan Rimkus, Ryan Santo, Sam Larsen and Zach Smith, with Caleb Blackburn joining the roster this year.
BRADFORD — Ryan Schulze returns as Bradford boys golf coach.
Bradford will be led by sophomore Keaton Mead and junior Taven Leach.
Also returning are senior Brayden Sanders, junior Connor Jones and sophomore Joey Brussel.
Joining them on the team will be freshman Scout Spencer, Dalten Skinner, Parker Davidson and Brenden Baker,
Schulze expects Miami East, Newton, Tri-County North and Arcanum as teams to beat in the CCC.
“Our goal is to be .500 or better in the league, we have a lot of talent and returning players who have played a lot this summer,” Schulze said. “With only losing one golfer from last season to graduation, I expect us to have a break-out season and hopefully be playing our best golf at the end of the season.”
WEST MILTON — Brett Barnes is back for his fifth year with the Milton-Union Bulldogs, and with his top two scores back from last year, he is hoping to see his Bulldogs competing for a Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship.
“Our goals this year as a team are to win the SWBL and qualify as a team for the district tournament,” Barnes said. “Last year, we finished third behind Waynesville and Carlisle, and with four golfers back — including No. 1 and 2 — we hope to find ourselves in position to win the league.”
Returning for the Bulldogs are senior Justin Brown, juniors Max Grafflin and Sam Case and sophomore Nathan Thompson, with freshman Grady Vichazone joining the team this season. Brown had the second-best nine-hole average in the SWBL Buckeye Division last season with 41.5, and Grafflin was 12th in the league with 47.0.
• Troy Christian
TROY — The Troy Christian boys golf team will go through a complete reset this season, with a new coach and no returning varsity players.
“We have no returning players this year, and each player we have is new to the game but willing to learn and excited to play,” said first-year Troy Christian coach Robby Lybarger. “We will keep our eyes on all of them as their skills develop.”
And with everything being new for the Eagles this season, they will be looking to find their place in the Metro Buckeye Conference, too.
“I’m not sure who sits at the top of the league this year, but Dayton Christian is always competitive,” Lybarger said. “As we have all new players, our two main goals will be the improvement of each individual and to foster their love for the game.”
SIDNEY — Eric Harlemert returns as coach.
The Cavaliers will be a more balanced team this season after losing standout Cole Gilardi to graduation.
The returning letterwinners include seniors Brandyn Sever and Mikey Rossman, juniors Alex Keller and Reid Thomas and sophomore John Gagnet.
Rounding out the roster are senior Ethan Derryberry and freshman Ian Mohrbacher and Hezekiah Beezy.
“We will be looking for four good scores to be successful,” Harlamert said. “We don’t have a lot of experience, but Brandyn Sever and Mikey Rossman have been really stepping up so far.”
Harlamert hopes to improve the numbers down the road.
“We only have eight this year,” We have been running a kids camp in the summer and we ran it for two weeks this year. So, hopefully that will pay dividends eventually.”
Defending NWCC champion Lima Perry does not have a team this year.
“I think it is wide open,” Harlamert said. “I think there are a lot of teams with an outstanding player. It will be interesting. We want to be competitive as we can be.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter. Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at email@example.com.
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