LKC golfers begin march in state tourney
Williamstown’s Caruthers hits course first
PARKERSBURG — The Mid-Ohio Valley will be well represented during the WVSSAC state golf tournament as five schools and three individuals will be competing at Oglebay Resort’s Jones Course in Wheeling today and Wednesday. A new title winner will be crowned in all three classes as last year’s winners George Washington, Westside, and Wheeling Central were bounced in regionals.
There will be plenty of familiarity in the Single-A field, seeing as five teams from the Little Kanawha Conference will be in the eight-team tournament. All spent most of the regular season playing against each other throughout and just saw each other at the LKC conference championship in late September,
“I’m really proud of our conference, we have 13 teams in our conference and six of them qualified for state,” third-year Parkersburg Catholic coach Chris Baker said. “That says a lot about the golf in the area, the LKC has always been a challenge and it makes the golfers improve because they have that weekly challenge of matches.”
Returning to Oglebay for the third straight year, the Ravenswood Red Devils are in search of their second single A title in three years.
Kevin McClung inherited the position of head coach after Dave Rader led the team to the 2017 state championship and a state runner-up finish one season ago in his first year.
It was a nice surprise for McClung to see his Red Devils finish second in Region IV to ensure a spot for all four Red Devil golfers, instead of just individuals qualifying for states.
Going through an up and down regular season, seniors Gavin Fox, Devin Raines and sophomores Cameron Taylor and Jacob Coberly got hot at the right time and took advantage of other teams’ mistakes at regionals.
“It’s a good habit, but this one’s a little surprising. We had some ups and downs and then towards the latter part of the season, we started to come together a little bit more,” McClung said.
“My two seniors (Fox and Raines) really became leaders and really began to not only play much better, but also were helping out our two younger kids as well. It brought the team together a little bit more.”
McClung will be once again be turning to his seniors, as they have excelled playing at the tough course. Fox was the second leading scorer last year shooting a 175, while Raines was only one shot back from Fox.
Placing in eighth place last year, the Webster County Highlanders will also be making a return trip to Wheeling.
Sophomore Colton Short was on the last years team as freshmen and is joined by senior Rigel Wilson, sophomore Zac Carpenter and freshmen Sydney Baird.
Playing one man down due to freshman Carter McMinn suffering broken fingers in football, the Crusaders found themselves unable to compete during the regular season when playing a four-man team.
Luckily for Catholic, the state tournament format switches to three-man play. Finally on equal terms with other teams, the Cruaders punched their ticket to states after finishing first in Region I.
“Our regular season we only had three golf members. So we had a lot of non-scoring events, which made it a long season for us,” Baker said. “But the tournaments we did play that used the regional scoring during the regular season, we did very well. We didn’t lose any matches and we tied one.”
Freshman Blake Lewis is Catholic’s number one golfer, senior Pat Copen is second and sophomore Eli Garnder is third, while he splits time between golf and football.
Knocking out the Maroon Knights in regional play and playing the majority of teams already, both the St. Marys Blue Devils and Ritchie County Rebels are confident about making some noise heading into tournament play at Wheeling.
The Blue Devils finished runners-up at the LKC and won the regional thanks to sophomores Brandon Lawhon(an individual last year), Grant Barnhart, Ethan Davis and Luke Webb.
Coach Catie Hamilton is hoping her young Blue Devils will be able to continue the momentum and learn from the experience for the future.
“I was very impressed with their performance all season, let alone how they performed at LKC and regionals,” Hamliton said. “Brandon went last year as an individual, so this is all new to us as a team. So I’m really excited about that, I really do think that it’s going to be anybody’s game.”
Hamilton’s most consistent shooters was Barnhart and Lawhorn, while Davis was the most improved golfer and Webb had to fight for his place at the fourth spot according to the coach.
Finishing second behind St. Marys and sending junior Dalton Edwards as an individual last year, Rebel head coach Marsha Knight is excited to not only once again go to the state tournament.
However Knight is going to be sending three more Rebels for the first time in her tenure to Oglebay for the next two days.
Getting experienced and improving thanks to playing in the Callaway Tour in the summer, senior Krista Davis, junior Anthony Rader and sophomore Logan Hilkey was able to make the necessary jumps in their game to reach states. “We were really excited last year, Dalton qualified as an individual and Dalton and I talked about how much more fun it would be to bring the whole team with us,” Knight said. “That was our goal this year is for everyone to finish first or second, so the whole team gets to go and have that same experience he had last year.”
Medaling last year with a score of 164, Williamstown’s junior Xavier Caruthers will be the lone Yellowjacket competing at states, as the team was unable to qualify past regionals.
One of the cornerstones of the team for the entire season according to coach Kayla Gains, it was a day and night transition of not only the work that Caruthers put into this year compared to last, but also more vocal in in practice.
“He put in more focused and dedicated to practices, he was more present at practice, you can definitely tell him and his game has matured a lot,” Gains said. “It’s pretty amazing to watch he’s been pretty consistent throughout the season. He’s a great kid, great to work with and I’m really excited to see what he does.”
In preparation of states, Caruthers and Gains spent the week practicing on his short game, putting and chipping.
Magnolia senior Trey Blain will be making another individual appearance at states, the Blue Eagle won medalist honors with a score of 153 as a junior.
Placing second in double A Region II, the four-time state champions Roane County Raiders is returning to Oglebay for the first time since 2016.
Spending as much time on the course as possible in the summer and fall with the Callaway Tour, junior Garrett Simon and sophomore Cole Ellis bring hot clubs into the two-day event.
As the season went on, senior Issac Starcher and freshman Emerson Simons improved their play when the Raiders needed it the most towards the middle of the season.
“So I think we really peaked in the middle of the season. We need to go up there with the attitude that we just need to play your best and however it falls, it falls. As long as we give it our best, it’s fine,” said sixteen-year head man Bubba Kendall. “Simon has been kind of a rock through the years, he’s probably got our lowest averages. He’s averaged about 83. He’ll be fine up there at (Oglebay).”
Ripley’s junior Andrew Manley will be the only area golfer in the Class AAA, teeing off on hole at 9:20 a.m.
Contact Tyler Bennett at email@example.com