PARKERSBURG - The Roane County golfers have set a precedence that put them in a class by themselves.
Despite graduating four players, the Raiders bring back the main core which has delivered two consecutive state titles in Class AA.
A third championship may be in the future as Roane County welcomes back twin brothers Cole and Cam Moore as they enter their junior year, along with their younger brother, Caleb, who is a sophomore. Senior Ben Daniels and sophomores Dalton Simmons and Hunter Thompson provide plenty of depth for coach Jim Kendall.
"The bar tends to stay high," said Kendall, who enters his 12th season as head coach.
Roane County is expecting as many as 12 golfers on its roster. One things is for sure, the schedule is no cakewalk. The Raiders seek to successfully defend its title in the Callaway Junior Tour's High School Series by competing at all four stops - which began with Lewisburg on Tuesday.
Roane County also has joined an elite field for the Wheeling Park Challenge scheduled for Aug. 23 at the Oglebay Jones Course.
"It's highly beneficial for the kids to play the best courses," Kendall said. "I've been told by coaches of great teams that you have to put your kids out there and challenge them."
What follows is an outlook at area golf programs in the Mid-Ohio Valley:
After serving as an assistant to Scott Miller for the past two seasons, Belpre boys basketball coach Jordan Thornhill steps into the head coaching role for the Golden Eagles golf program.
Brennen Ferrell and Hayden Plummer have graduated, but Thornhill welcomes back seniors Sam Petty, Alex Perry, Ryan McGee and Jackie Cunningham, along with sophomore Logan Plummer and freshman Brice Ferrell.
Belpre qualified for the district meet a year ago, and Thornhill believes there is no reason why his golfers can't return to that level.
"I have a good group of kids, especially with Sam, Alex and Jackie who have a lot of experience playing golf," Thornhill said.
While the boys have lofty goals, Cunningham is anxious to repeat as a district qualifier for at least a third year in a row.
"Jackie is extremely underrated at Belpre as a student-athlete," Thornhill said. "She's ranked No. 1 in her class and she is a very mature player, and a very mature person."
With all this talent on board, Belpre is seeking a fourth straight Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division crown.
Marsha Knight won a title as the Ritchie County volleyball coach before stepping down several years ago. Now in her first year as the Rebels golf coach, she would like to see her kids experience that same feeling.
"I know Ritchie County golf has a lot of tradition and a lot of expectations - they enjoy playing the game," Knight said. "These kids would like to follow in their footsteps."
One glaring hole to fill is the one left by the graduation of Sydney Snodgrass, who is now a member of the women's golf team at UAB. Tyler Layfield also graduated from last year's team, which pulled off a stunner by defeating eventual Class AA state champ Roane County at the regional meet.
Giving Ritchie County experience are juniors Ben Knight and Riley Allen, along with senior Jon Harkness. Providing depth are sophomores Tyler Layman and Sydney Brill, and junior Austin Garrett.
"Our goal is to make it to state," Marsha Knight said.
Sophomore Peyton Moore has established himself as the top golfer on the Magnolia golf team and given the Blue Eagles a fighting chance in the Ohio Valley Golf League.
"Last year, Peyton played No. 1 and played really well for us last year by making it to state," Magnolia coach Dave Tallman said. "He played all summer long - he really works at it."
Magnolia captured both the regular season and tournament titles for the Ohio Valley Golf League thanks to contributions of returning letterwinners Matthew Durig, Shane Mason and Derrick Blain, who will be juniors this season,.
Magnolia suffered a minor hit with graduation after losing their No. 2 golfer, Jake Starkey, along with Logan Massey and Brantley Hissom.
Senior Coleman Lamp and junior Drew Wells are considered the centerpieces for a St. Marys golf program under new direction. St. Marys softball coach John Mike Nichols takes over for Howard Meeks one year after the Blue Devils placed third at the Class A state tournament.
"The swings are lower than in softball and the balls aren't moving," Nichols said. "In softball, I don't want the players hitting the ball in the air. Here in golf, they like to get up in the air. Plus, there is no fence for the long balls to go over."
Nichols is excited about the possibilities that await St. Marys' group of golfers, which total 12 members.
"Coleman and Drew both made the top 8 on the Callaway Tour and golfed last weekend at the Greenbrier's Old White Course," Nichols said. "They are both extremely talented and work hard at their game. They are always playing."
Caleb Meaige and Trace Boso were the only casualties to graduation, but other than that third-year coach Matt Bender figures to have nearly 10 golfers on the roster when the season begins Wednesday at the St. Marys Invitational.
"Right now, we have a lot of unknowns," Bender said.
Incoming freshman Alex Eastham and Carson Fox represent two legitimate prospects. Also figured to contribute heavily is junior Johnny Watkins.
"Alex played on the Mid-Ohio Valley Junior Golf Association tour - the kid can play," Bender said.
Participation keeps growing for the Paden City golf program. Now in his third season as the Wildcats' head coach, Nathan Tallman remembers when he accepted the job only four golfers showed up for that first day of practice.
"We're starting to turn the corner," Tallman said. "Last year, we improved by 70 strokes at regional, but we still have a long ways to go. We also won five matches last year, which was five more matches than we won the year before."
The only starter lost to graduation was Jeremy Mercer. Otherwise, Paden City brings back the likes of seniors Kennedy Cain, Dean Frye and Levi Meadows, sophomores Jake Pierce and Aaron Heasley. Meadows played No. 1 for the Wildcats last season,
Among the newcomers are junior Michael Wilcox and sophomore Evan Shreves, along with junior Dezirae Middleton.
Of the four members from the Tyler Consolidated golf program, Corey Wells was one of the more talented individuals Joe Griffith coached in his 30-plus seasons with the Silver Knights.
"Corey had injury issues last year - he played right at the beginning of the season, but he couldn't do it after that," Griffith said.
Griffith expects as many as 13 golfers on this year's team. Figured to contribute on a daily basis are senior Nathan Kemp, Sean Camerlin and Jon Lancaster, and juniors Ty Pratt and Adam Cooper.
"With Nathan, people tell me all the time how often he is at the golf course," Griffith said. "He lives there. He's really worked at his game the last few years."
The Ripley camp will have one glaring absence with the graduation of its top golfer in Logan Reynolds. Otherwise, the Vikings expect in upwards of nine golfers to fill the roster this season.
Back for his fourth season is Justin McKown, who Ripley coach Kevin McClung hopes will emerge and take over the No. 1 spot in the lineup.
Several other names will play a role in the varsity lineup, including senior Wes Withrow, junior Derek Hill, sophomore Josh Sinclair and sophomore Elijah Riffe.
"I have probably three to four kids who will compete fairly well," McClung said.
The state of Gilmer County golf is in limbo. The school's athletic director and boys basketball coach, Steve Shuff, will accompany the team on their opening two matches Thursday and Friday, but outside of those facts the Titans are seeking to hire a new head coach.
Back as the mainstays of the Gilmer golf team are Colby Cunningham, Karibee Steele and Jacob Arden. One of the Titans' top golfers from a year ago, Colby Cunningham, has graduated.