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Local golf teams seek success

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By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – Young and talented.

     Those are two words that any high school coach loves to utter and that phrase fits in perfectly with the Bullitt East boys’ golf program as they head into the 2014 season.

     On a team that has only one senior, Hunter Simmons, the Chargers are ready to make some noise this fall, especially when the Region 3 Tournament rolls around on Sept. 30 at the Elizabethtown Country Club.

     “We’re pretty excited,” veteran Bullitt East head coach Kyle Downs said before a recent practice. “We have a good group. We have a really strong top seven or eight golfers. The top five is coming in and playing well.”

     The Chargers shot out of the gate over the first couple of days of the season, finishing fifth out of 23 teams in the Charger Open at Heritage Hill Golf Course and a day later they finished second in the Central Hardin Invitational.

     Bullitt East junior Ethan Breeden finished tied for second in both of those early season events.

     “We didn’t play our best golf either day,” Downs said. “If we put it all together we’ll be really good.”

     Bullitt East does have to travel about 20 miles from school to their home course at Heritage Hill, but that doesn’t seem to bother any of the players. Downs has 21 golfers in the program this season despite just having the one player in the senior class.

     Breeden will be leading the team into battle this season after a strong summer playing constantly in the area’s top junior tour. Breeden finished second overall in the 15-16 age group amongst all Kentucky golfers.

     Also playing in many of those summer events were teammates Zach Taylor and Sam Wilson. They will be slotted into the second and third team spots.

     In high school golf, each school puts five players on the course with the top four scores being used to create the team score. Downs will let Simmons, Sonny Foreman and Mark Murphy battle for the other two spots in the biggest events of the season.

     “Ethan played a lot of golf over the summer,” the coach pointed out. “This is the first time that all five of my players have competed in summer tournaments.”

     What the coach is trying to impress on his young team is that it doesn’t matter who is put into the second, third, fourth or fifth spots. What is important is the final team score at the end of the day.

     “The number doesn’t matter,” the coach said of the position any player starts the round. It’s five golfers for four scores. We’ve been working hard since July 15 to develop that. They are not worried about beating one another, but putting up the best score.”

     There are times this season where the Chargers might enter two teams in an event. The players who could fill those roles are Luke Whitley, Ian Kerr, Zach Holden and Steven Peak.

     To help drive home the team score first mentality, Downs took his team ti Indianapolis for an overnight trip in which they played golf as well as bonded.

     The goal for the season is simple – finish among the top two teams in the Region Tournament on Sept. 30 and advance to the Kentucky State Tournament.

     It appears that the toughest competition will come from Elizabethtown and Central Hardin. The Chargers lost to Elizabethtown in both of the early invitational events and best Central Hardin each time.

     “That is right up there,” Downs said of a season-long goal. “We just want to get better every day. If we do that, the state stuff will take care of itself.”

BC, NB Girls’ Teams

     Building a girls’ golf program at Bullitt Central and North Bullitt has been an ongoing effort with only tiny success stories here and there.

     Finally, it appears that Lady Cougar head coach James Moore and Lady Eagle head coach Ronnie Bryson might finally have the numbers to field complete teams when the regional tournament rolls around on Sept. 29. That would be the first time ever that all three schools will have full teams for the post-season.

     Still, there is work to do, but the numbers are getting better. Last week, Moore reported that he had eight girls on the team for this season and three of those had been with him last season. Bryson has six girls and all of them are sophomores or older.

     The two programs hope to play a full nine-hole match against each other on Tuesday of this week at Heritage Hill, the home course for all six Bullitt county golf programs again this season.

     Moore is looking to build this season around seniors Emily McKnight and Breanna Richardson. McKnight works at Heritage Hill. The two went out in a practice round last week and each broke 50.

     Another senior in the program is Kristen Hines and there is one junior, Kortney Woods. Moore is also hoping that sophomore Natalie Stopher and freshman Ariel Westwood can get their level of play up to competing for 18-holes.

     The program also includes a pair of seventh-graders, Quincy Latkovski and Breanna O’Keefe.

     In girls’ golf, to play in the 18-hole regional tournament, a player must have played in at least one 18-hole event during the regular season. The players cannot use a motorized cart, so must carry or pull their clubs.

     “We have three now who could easily walk 18,” Moore said. “For the two seventh-graders, they might need a little more time.”

     At this point, Moore does not have his team in an 18-hole event, but hopes to add one in September.

     “The long term goal is to have five in the regional,” Moore said. “For our seniors I want to see them do well. Then for the other kids it will be a good experiences. It’s a different feeling playing in that events.”

     Bryson has many of the same goals for his North Bullitt program. This is his third season at the helm and the team has gotten a little bigger each season.

     “A full team for the regional would be an accomplishment,” the coach said before a practice session last week. “This is my third year and every year we have added to the regional total. It was one my first year and then two last year.

       “Hopefully, this year a full team,” Bryson noted. “Having four girls to do 18 would be an improvement.”

     The Lady Eagles did lose one of the players who was in the regional last year, but they do have sophomore Sarah Morris who played last year. Morris will play in the number one spot for the Lady Eagles. The two seniors on this year’s team, Madi Zachery and Haley Vittitow, will also play key roles.

     The other players on the team at this point are juniors Kaylee Bennett and Hannah Thompson as well as sophomore Hannah Robinson.

     “I would like to have a girl in the regional score 100 or better,” Bryson said. “I think Sarah can do that with a complete round of staying focused.”

     Bryson feels that his top three golfers will all be able to shoot in the 50s for nine-holes with a little more work.

     North Bullitt does plan to put at least a few players in the Bluegrass Cup, the 18-hole event conducted by Bullitt East that will be held at Heritage Hill on Aug. 23.