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SHEPHERDSVILLE – There are few seasons when expectations for the Bullitt East boys’ golf team are not modest, but this fall, coach Kyle Downs feels that his team is coming of age and ready to contend once again for regional golf honors.
“Our expectations are high,” the fourth year head coach said after turning out the lights after running the Charger Open Golf Tournament last Friday at Heritage Hill Golf Course. “The last three or four years we’ve been working to build a program. Now, we expect to contend in the regional every year.”
This year, Downs has 18 golfers in his program. For the first meet of the season last week, he entered a pair of five-men teams in the Charger Open.
At this point, Downs is ready to put senior Michael Murphy at the number one spot on his team along with freshman Zach Taylor in the number two spot. After that, there are a lot of good golfers who will battle for the last three spots for the team when it enters post-season play on September 30.
Murphy made a big statement when he shot a one-over par 73 in the Charger Open to finish fourth in a top-flight field. The senior played some over the summer in state events, but his focus was on getting ready for the two-month high school season.
“He has been shooting in the 70s or the low 80s,” Downs said of scores that could get him out of regional play and to the state tournament in October. “He worked on his game over the summer, but he really focused on getting ready for the next two months to be ready for the high school season.”
Taylor can also get into the 70s on good days and his future is strong.
“Zach played in the Kentucky Junior Amateur this summer and had a score in the low 80s,” Downs reported. “He’ll be a big part of our program the next four years.”
After that, Downs will be using every practice and match to whittle seven players down to the three that will join Murphy and Taylor on the team for the regional tournament which will be held this year at the South Park Country Club. That group of players includes seniors Josh Lane, Wes Taylor and Chandler O’Bryan along with junior Hunter Simmons, sophomores Sam Wilson and Sonny Foreman along with 8th-grader Mark Murphy.
“After the first two it is wide-open,” Downs said. “That is good. They will be competing not only in tournaments, but in practice every day. They will have to perform in practice.”
With a stronger program, Downs has put his team in weekend tournaments just about every Saturday during the season.
“Every Saturday we’ll be doing something,” the coach said. “It’s more competitive that way and we’ll get better from that.”
This is the second year that Clay Harned has been the head coach of the Cougars and he is still working on the building process. He returns just three players from the program last season, but he does return his best player in junior Alex Nusz.
Harned is rebuilding with eight players, none of which are seniors.
The coach is high on Nusz having a big fall season, but the rest of the players are inexperienced. In last week’s Charger Open at Heritage Hill, Harned used juniors Trevor Walker and Pierce Frye along with sophomores Jake Cox and Cameron Dawson in the first match.
Still, Harned is not ruling out any of his players earning a spot on the five-man team for the regional tournament at the end of the season.
Rounding out the program at this point are junior Nolan Hayes and sophomore Trevor Pruitt and Chase Craddock.
“After Alex at number one, it will just be who steps up and claims those spots,” Harned said. “They are still learning. Out of the eight guys, at least three have just picked up the game in the last year to 18 months. If they stay with me, we’ll be good to go (down the road).”
First-year Eagle golf coach Eric Carter played basketball and baseball at North Bullitt before graduating in 2006, but he never played golf on the team.
Still, he was playing golf at the time and conditioned for basketball during the fall. Now, he will be teaching business classes at North Bullitt and coaching the golf team.
The Eagles had only three players returning from last year, but through word of mouth, the roster has swelled to 11 golfers with three of those being seniors.
While Carter feels his team can post scores in the mid-40s, it’s going to take some time to get highly competitive against the better teams in the area.
Carter will be looking at sophomore Camden Davenport when the team opens play next Monday in its first match. At this early point the new coach will be looking at seniors Justin Stinson and Tyler Mayberry to play in the first five along with sophomores Jared Free and Tanner Bishop.
The other older players in the program are senior Kyle Pursley along with junior Zachry Himes and sophomore Austin Harding. Carter is high on three freshman who have joined the program this summer.
“I think Davenport and Stinson could make some noise,” the coach said.