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SHEPHERDSVILLE - The calendar may have just flipped to August, but the 2009-2010 high school sports season kicks off this week with the start of the golf season.
Locally, all three high schools plan to have both boys’ and girls’ teams this fall. While some of the boys’ teams will start today, the highlight of the first week will come on Wednesday when all three teams converge on Heritage Hill Golf Course for the Bullitt East Charger Open. There will be 20 teams taking part in that event.
The biggest change amongst the local boys’ teams is at Bullitt East where former Charger golf standout Kyle Downs has taken over the program from Todd Eastridge who ran the team for the past two seasons.
See a look on the girls’ teams in Wednesday’s edition.
A look at the three local boys’ teams show optimism abounds heading into the season.
When Downs was looking for a teaching position, golf might not have been at the top of his search criteria. Still, when he signed on to teach business classes in Mount Washington, the opening in the golf program quickly came to light. By late June, Downs was both a teacher and a coach.
“This is a good group of kids and they listen well,” Downs said during a practice at Heritage Hill last week. “They have gotten a lot better over the last two weeks.”
Downs was a member of the Bullitt East golf program the last time they won a regional championship and advanced to the state tournament.
The best news for Downs is that the Chargers return senior Justin York to the team. A year ago, York qualified for the state tournament after prevailing on the first play-off hole at Lindsey Golf Course at Fort Knox.
York, along with fellow senior Tyler Mingus, both played in some summer tournaments to prepare for the high school season.
At this point, Downs is looking at York to play in the number one position and then either Mingus or junior Darren Snawder will fill the second and third slots.
After those three, the last two spots in most matches will be up for grabs. Downs ran through a list of seven names for those final two spots from a roster that includes 16 players.
The last two slots will be a battle all season between seniors Robert Staples and Donovan Price as well as junior Kyle Ridgeway. Sophomores Jake Wilson, Andrew Harris and Matt Murphy will also contend along with eighth-grander Michael Murphy.
“I try to do a little teaching,” Downs said. “The main thing is getting them on the course.”
Bullitt East is playing exclusively at Heritage Hill again this season. Eastridge had pretty much already assembled the big tournament on Wednesday and now Downs will run it. It will be part of a busy week for the Chargers as they will play five of the first six days of the season.
The Cougars hope to be competitive this season behind the play of the team’s only senior - Sheldon Hoagland. Coach Shane Popplewell has six players back from last year’s team.
Hoagland had a big season as a sophomore, reaching a play-off in the regional tournament for a trip to the state tournament become coming up short. He struggled during some during his junior season, but looks to rebound for his final tour.
“He is playing a lot more consistent,” Popplewell said on the driving range at Heritage Hill last week. “He has played a lot this summer.
“He could be a threat,” to reach state the coach added. “He almost went to state two years ago. He didn’t play as well at the end of the season.”
Since July 15, the Cougars have been practicing four days a week at Heritage Hill while they will call home for the second season.
Playing behind Hoagland, Popplewell will insert junior Jared Ryan into the number two slot and have junior Guy Stitt in the third position. The next two players will be sophomores Jacob Richardson and Johnny Larison. The first four players were on the team last season, but Larison played football last year before deciding on golf for this fall.
Popplewell has a good turnout this fall with 15 players on the roster.
“I think we’ll be competitive,” the coach said of the season. “Our top three are pretty good. If we can get in the 40s with the fourth and fifth guys will be good. Other than that, we are young with just the one senior.”
Having the driving range and putting green at Heritage Hill has been a huge help to the program.
“I try to help them as much as I can,” Popplewell said of individual coaching. “I didn’t play in high school as I picked it up later. I have had some guys come out to help and some former players have helped.”
Eagle head coach John Hunt isn’t big on numbers this year, or seniors, but he is confident that his team can make some noise by the end of the season.
North Bullitt has no seniors and only nine players on its roster. Six of those are juniors who spend a lot of time together as most also play baseball.
Even without a senior, Hunt is not ready to call this a rebuilding season. The team lost only one key senior from a year ago and three of the returning players competed in the regional tournament last season.
At this point, junior Matt Bloom is going to be in the number one position while sophomore Brandon Goeings will be number two. Both of those players were part of the last year’s team in the regional tournament. The third player to return is junior Cody Montgomery.
Hunt will round out his five-man rotation with juniors Jared Abell and Blake Hardy.
What the Eagles won’t have is a lot of depth. Juniors Will Parker and Evan Bickett could see some action.
Bloom played a lot of golf over the summer and reached the final match in the First Flight of the Junior Falls City Tournament just a few weeks ago.
Hunt feels that Bloom and Goeings could make a run at a high regional finish and advance to the state tournament. The team should get better as the season goes on.
“In some of the early tournaments I want to be in the top 10 or top 15,” Hunt said. “By the end, hopefully we can get the county championship. I’m confident in Matt and Brandon.
“As far as the regional, I can see us being top six or seven,” the coach added. “Then on one good day we could have a shot (at winning the regional).”
North Bullitt has been practicing at Quail Chase Golf Course this summer and will call that home again this season.