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SHEPHERDSVILLE - With all five players returning from the team that competed in the regional tournament a year ago, the Bullitt East Chargers appear to be the team to beat in area golf circles this season.
Not only do the Chargers have experience, they also have more depth than their two county rivals. Coach Kyle Downs’ team has 19 members this season while North Bullitt and Bullitt Central are dealing with eight or fewer players heading into the first week of the regular season.
All three teams are once again playing at Heritage Hill Golf Course in Shepherdsville. The number one ranked public golf course in Kentucky will play host to both the boys’ and girls’ regional tournaments on Sept. 26 and 27 this year.
That news is extra motivation for the local team members as they will be familiar with their own course. In addition, it has made it very easy for the area coaches to make out a schedule as many teams want to play at Heritage Hill.
Individually, North Bullitt senior Brandon Goeing is the top returning player. Two years ago he lost in a sudden death play-off at the regional tournament for the final spot to the state tournament.
While the Bullitt East Invitational will not be played this season because of the early start to the school year for area teachers, the three area teams will compete in a pair of mid-week events as a group. First, at the end of August, the three schools will work together in the Bullitt/Hardin Cup Tournament. Then, during the last week of the regular season, they will compete against each other for two days in the Two-County Cup event that also includes Spencer County.
If nothing else, the Chargers have a definite numbers advantage on their county rivals this fall. As one coach put it, Bullitt East has enough players for a football team while the other two schools are trying to fill basketball rosters.
Downs has 19 players on the team this year which is actually one less than a year ago. He has split the team into a varsity and junior-varsity to provide more practice time. The Chargers had no seniors a year ago, but now have seven six seniors including four who played in the regional tournament last fall.
Before heading into the first match of the season on Tuesday of this week at home against LaRue County, Downs was looking at seniors Jake Wilson and Andrew Harris as well as junior Tyler Wood and sophomore Michael Murphy in a group at the top of his program.
There was another group of players who will be battling for the fifth spot in varsity matches. That group includes seniors Matt Murphy and Morgan Hilbert, both of whom played in the regional tournament last year. The deep group also includes senior Zach Bain as well as junior Dillon Sego, sophomores Wes Taylor and Josh Lane along with freshman Alex Nusz.
Five of those players competed this summer in some Mussleman-Dunn events which are statewide tournaments for high school age players. That brought about improvement which has bumped some players out of the top group.
“A lot of people have improved a lot,” Downs said on the practice range earlier this week.
“We’ve got individual and team goals and scores that we want to shoot,” the coach added. “We’d just like to get better from where we are until the end.”
The local teams struggled mightily in the regional tournament a year ago, but Downs thinks his team could be in the mix by the end of September.
“It’s a goal,” the third-year head coach said. “The regional is in the back of our minds. Right now we just want to be better.”
To work on team goals, Bullitt East spent three days last week in Muscle Shoals, Alabama doing nothing but playing golf.
The Chargers will play in four major Saturday tournaments starting this Saturday at the Greenup County Invitational at Hidden Cove Golf Course near Ashland.
Second-year North Bullitt coach Brian Courtney lost the majority of his team from a year ago to graduation, but he does return senior Brandon Goeing, one of the top players in the area. The two will be spending a lot of time together this school year as Goeing is also the Eagles’ top returning basketball player. Courtney was named the school’s basketball coach earlier this summer.
This is the fifth year that Goeing has been a member of the North Bullitt golf team, but he is the only returning player who competed in the regional tournament last season.
A few days before opening the season in the Meade County Invitational on Saturday at Doe Valley Golf Course, Courtney was thinking that junior Austin Reynolds would be his number two player. The coach then said that sophomore Justin Stinson and freshman Matt Weis were battling for the number three and four spots.
The fifth player could be either junior Justin Clayton or freshman Matthew Faith.
The North Bullitt roster has just eight names. Courtney was hoping to attract a few more players from the freshman orientation which was going to be held this week at the school.
Courtney feels that Goeing could be a top-flight golfer if he didn’t love basketball so much. Despite not playing in summer events, Goeing has the ability to cover Heritage Hill at par which is 72. Even on bad days, the senior can shoot 75, a school that should qualify him for the state tournament.
North Bullitt had the best record in school history a year ago, but overall, the program is starting over.
“We’re just rebuilding now,” Courtney said. “Our goal right now is just to get the younger kids better. Hopefully we can get him (Goeing) to state as an individual.”
Veteran Cougar head coach Shane Popplewell could have a strong team at the top of the line-up, but there is very little depth on a roster with just six names.
“We didn’t have very many young kids last season,” Popplewell noted. “With graduation we didn’t have anybody to replace them. I’ve called a few freshmen. I’ll try to get some out from orientation. It’s tough to get some younger kids. At this point, the Bullitt Central roster has four seniors and two juniors.
At the top of the line-up will be senior Jacob Richardson while the next two spots will go to juniors Casey Goins and Cody Powell. Senior Johnny Larison should fit into the number four slot. That will leave seniors Nick Smith and Luke Whitmore battling for the fifth playing spot.
“The kids are looking forward to the regional being here,” Popplewell said of Heritage Hill. “It will be good to have it on a course that we know well. Still, you have to go out and play well.
“Our first two or three spots should be competitive,” the coach added. “But right now we just don’t have a lot of depth.”
The Cougars will open the season on Saturday in the Meade County Invitational and will play North Bullitt next Tuesday at Heritage Hill.