By Chris Chaney
High school golf has one of the quickest turnarounds in prep sports in terms of fielding a team and having them compete right away. With the first day of athletic activity allowed to commence on Aug. 1, most Clermont County golf teams had less than a week to meet their new teammates before they were out on the course in meaningful regular season matches.
Coming into 2013, the Clermont County golf scene is sure to see a lot of new faces trying to make their mark on area courses. The constant turnover of student-athletes is more pronounced in golf than some other sports that share the fall season.
In a game that requires patience and experience, it is more likely for golfers to mature and improve as they get older with the point being players often are still climbing their hill of potential by the time graduation comes around. More often than not, the best players in the area are upperclassmen as a result.
While each team will have their various holes to fill early in the season, the New Richmond Lions have a step up on their competition when it comes to figuring out who can play where. Under head coach Phil Heflin, the Lions return four players from 2012, three of which were All-Southern Buckeye Conference performers from last year’s league championship squad.
“We should be able to be pretty competitive in the league, I think,” Heflin said.
Heflin has reason for his optimism bringing back First Team talents Chris Mazzaro and Bryce Kroeger, both of whom were important pieces in the Lions’ second straight SBC title.
If the Lions are going to make it three league titles in a row, they will have to overcome a rebuilding Amelia squad who Heflin expects to be a contender once again.
“You’re always going to have Amelia,” Heflin said. “Coach Cornett over there is sneaky good. He’s always (got his team) towards the top.”
The Barons come into 2013 with a curious case of momentum. Jake Brinker, who now plays his college golf at Northern Kentucky University, was the lone Clermont County boys golfer to qualify for state.
“I still have a couple players on the team that are upcoming,” Cornett said following last year’s season. “With a little more practice there, I think we’ll still be competitive, but it’s going to be rough without Jake. He was the leader of the pack.
“We still have a few people on the team that have a lot of skills that can keep up in the league.”
The Barons will be led by a pair of seniors in Dakota Sturgeon and Gavin Joyce, while a host of juniors and sophomore will round out Cornett’s team. Trent Edwards, a junior and returning All-SBC Second Team selection, will be a big piece for Amelia this year as they look to continue the upward trend that Brinker started.
A young Bethel-Tate team could be a darkhorse, according to some of the coaches around the area. The Tigers bring one junior and five sophomores to the course this year.
Joey Smith, the elder statesman of the group as the only junior, will lead a cast made up of Caleb Dahlheimer, Caleb Robinson, Ian Kimberly, Mitchell McElfresh and Ricky Awad. McElfresh was a Second Team All-SBC performer last year.
Rounding out the SBC-American is Goshen. The Warriors will play a five-man roster of three seniors, a junior and a sophomore to secure their four scores. The trio of seniors — Lucky Singleton, Mason Daniel and Steven Short — will be charged with leading junior Bradley Rapier and sophomore Jordan Scott.
On the National side of the SBC, teams will be waiting to see each other more so to scout each other out. Clermont Northeastern and Batavia would appear to be near the top of the Clermont County, but both are expecting to be looking up to someone else.
“Georgetown will probably be the best team in the league,” CNE head coach Brandon Hoeppner said. “Other than that, it’s pretty much going to be a toss up.”
Hoeppner’s squad will have some returning experience on the roster with a solid mix of each grade level.
“We have two returning seniors and two returning sophomores and one returning junior, so I’m looking forward to them having good seasons,” he said.
The seniors, Kiefer Cunningham and Evan Tellep, will head up a team made up of junior Shelby Hoeppner, sophomores Jared Ansteatt and Chris Lindsley, and freshmen Ethan Brummett, Cody Compton and Quentin Mink.
Challenging Georgetown along with CNE will be Batavia, a group that is among the deepest in the area. The Bulldogs have 12 golfers on their roster for 2013, including returning First Team All-SBC selection Austin Conner. Joining Conner will be fellow senior and SBC All-Star Kyle Grant. Austin Sammons and Campbell Haynes are the only other two upperclassmen.
Head coach Randy Jones will have his hands full filling out the rest of the roster with a lot of talent to choose from.
In the Eastern Cincinnati Conference, a pair of programs on the rise come into 2013 with some returning talent to lead the way.
Milford, who finished in fourth place last year, will return All-ECC performer Austin Taylor, a senior, who along with fellow fourth-years Ryan Schaffner and Tristan Lana will lead the Eagles. Juniors Daniel Stephan and Andrew Norton, along with freshmen Aaron Wade and Nathan Arnold will see some playing time.
For the Trojans, Alec Conway will head up a roster made up of one other senior, Josh Buckner, and a trio of juniors, a pair of sophomores and a freshman.