The area is filled with young, talented golfers hoping to break on to the scene in the 2018 season.
Some showed their potential last year, stepping up on roles of their respective teams as freshman, sophomores or even middle schoolers.
With the KHSAA golf season set to officially begin on Friday, here’s a look at boys’ golf teams from the area:
The Royals return four of their top five golfers from a season ago, finishing fourth in the 8th Region as a team. They’ll look to improve on that mark as the lone departure from the team was Bryan Walton, the team’s No. 1 consistent golfer throughout the 2017 season.
“It’s not easy losing a Bryan Walton or a B.J. Knox the year before. Those two were very successful for our program,” Mefford said.
Mefford enters his third season with the team and expects this one to be more mature from a year ago with more experience under their belt. He’s counting on freshman Mason Butler to lead the way for the Royals this season as the No. 1. Butler got his feel for varsity golf as an eighth grader last season and was consistently the Royals No. 2 golfer throughout the year, including a season best 75 at the Grant County Classic.
The team is currently in the midst of a four-day qualifying rounds for the first three tournaments the first three days of the season. Butler is currently above the rest.
“He’s got a lot of talent. He’s been hitting it really well,” Mefford said.
After Butler comes sophomore Evan Schumacher and freshman Logan Shepherd. Those three are up in the standings for the four-day qualifying leading into the season. Schumacher was in the top five last season as a freshman and Mefford says his distance off the tee and shorter irons have improved his game. Shepherd’s game has improved vastly to catapult him up to the top three spots on the team as they enter the season. Mefford points to his short game as the reason for the improvement.
After that, much like last year will be a continuous battle for the final couple spots in tournament play. Junior Spencer Magee, freshman Kaden Grooms and freshman Zack Ring are all in the mix for the final two spots. The three were within three strokes of one another entering Thursday’s final round of qualifying.
“Our top five in that will play our first three tourneys and then we’ll go from there,” Mefford said. “Another year of maturity, communicating with these guys and them listening will help. We’re still young, but one year makes a big difference.”
Rounding out the roster will be J.D. Shepherd, Grant Owens, Quin Grooms, Isaac Marshall, Joseph Haslett, Westin Messer and Chase Walton.
Mefford said he expects to be competitive with Highlands and Grant County for the top three spots in the 8th Region. Highlands has the advantage of the regional tournament being on their home course at A.J. Jolley on September 26. The Royals have the Highlands Invitational there on August 1, a tri-match with Highlands and Grant on August 8 and a couple of practice rounds scheduled to get a feel for the course.
“We’re really looking forward to the tri-match with those two to see where we stand,” Mefford said. “It will give us a nice little picture with a couple more practice rounds there throughout the season. We’ll know the course come region tourney time and it will be good for these guys.”
Outside of the tourneys and matches at A.J. Jolley, the Royals will host two tournaments, the Mason County/St. Patrick Invitational at Maysville Country Club on August 4 and the Laurel Oaks Classic on August 25 at Laurel Oaks Golf Course. Another notable tourney is August 7 at the Franklin Flyer Classic at Juniper Hills, featuring some of the top teams in the state.
Mason County opens their season Friday at the Rowan County Invitational at Eagle Trace Golf Course in Morehead.
The Lions are coming off their first season in school history sending a team to the state tournament and return three golfers from the 2017 team.
“We’re hoping that creates some drive and what their expectations will be this year,” Lions coach Jim Draper said. “You can’t really ever explain or understand the feeling of that level of play unless you’ve been there. They got to see what the best in the state can do and know what to shoot for.”
The team returns freshman Logan Liles, Austin Ruggles and Cameron Ruckel. Liles was the lone member of the team to make it to the second day of the state tournament and is coming off a summer in which he was highly successful on Kentucky’s Junior PGA Tour.
“He’s played really well this summer and should shine this year,” Draper said.
Ruggles and Ruckel have both worked on their game over the summer and Draper carries high expectations for the two as they enter their senior year.
Filling out the rest of the team will be Avery Sartan, Mark Sparks and Wyatt Yates. All three are fairly new to the game and Draper is looking forward to them developing.
The loss of Robby Draper and Tate Willis will hurt the depth as the Lions had a consistent team effort throughout the season, shooting around 320 as a team with the group consistently shot in the mid 70’s to 80’s. Moving forward to 2018, that will be the key for the Lions to get back to Bowling Green for the state tournament in early October.
“We talk about it every week trying to avoid the big numbers. We’ve got these guys playing in a lot of tournaments early on to work on experience and competitive play and expose them to those situations,” Draper said.
The Lions will start the year on Friday at the Rowan County Invitational at Eagle Trace. They have tournaments scheduled here in Maysville with the Mason County/St. Patrick Invitational and the Laurel Oaks Classic. They’ve also got a couple rounds scheduled at Hidden Cove, home of the 12th Region Tournament.
The Panthers have four players on the roster with three freshman in Hunter High, Logan Hughes and Owen Manning along with junior Sam Johnson.
They’ll look to replace Jordan Hughes, the 8th Region runner-up from a season ago, a big loss for the program as Hughes is headed to Shawnee State to continue playing.
Fleming finished fifth in the region last year with High and Logan Hughes placing in the top 30.
Austin Hart will coach the Panthers this season, replacing Corbin Marshall.
Tony Ruf takes over as coach for the Panthers, a 1996 graduate of the Independent School. Ruf replaces Terry Bray and has previous coaching experience with Bracken County in 2005-06.
“I like to play golf and wanted to do something to interact with the kids,” Ruf said, who will be teaching middle school social studies.
Ruf was just named the coach this week, so is still gathering information on the team and finalizing a schedule.
The roster will be led by junior Sam Appelman, who finished tied for 21st in the 8th Region Tournament last year. Junior Preston Philpot, sophomore Joseph Mains and freshman Noah Teegarden, John Paul Cordle and John Kiskaden all return from a season ago.
“We’ll be coming back with a little more experience so I’m looking forward to these guys continuing to develop and play. They’ve been practicing and working over the summer and I’m looking forward to the season,” Ruf said.
The big match prior to the regional tournament for the Panthers will be the All “A” Classic on August 9.
Augusta’s home course will be at Twin Bridges Golf Club in California.
The Saints have six players on the roster as coach Bettsy Kalb is still working to finalize the roster and schedule for the season. Among the returnees from last year are Emerson Day and Evan Kalb as the two were the lone competitors in the 2017 8th Region Tournament.
Other members on the team according to the KHSAA roster are seniors Ryan Applegate, Logan Kalb and Marcus Cascio and junior Hayden Reed.