The depth on Mason County’s boys golf team is deep enough to where it came down to the final day before the season begins to figure out who their top five golfers would be to start the year.
The Royals will have a deep team this season as it begins on Friday at Eagle Trace Golf Course in Morehead, also the site of the 12th Region Tournament, one they’ve set expectations of winning.
The top five after four rounds of qualifying at Laurel Oaks Golf Course will be Mason Butler, Logan Shepherd, Kaden Grooms, Evan Schumacher and Zack Ring. Others knocking at the door for a spot include seventh grader Jake Feldhaus and freshman Quin Grooms, creating quite the competition among the team that should translate to a successful 2020 season.
“Through the first four qualifying rounds, two days we had five kids in the 70’s and one day we had six. We’ve got a good squad, we’ve got good young people coming up and these kids have worked really hard,” Royals coach Chad Mefford said. “We’re headed in the right direction and we’re hopeful to get the season in and head out there and make some noise.”
As they approach the season, expectations remain the same, win the 12th Region. Its been five years since they’ve done so, hopeful to bring their whole team to Bowling Green for the state tournament.
Butler, Schumacher and Shepherd have all participated in the state tournament individually, but now they want all five to go. With the depth it’s a possibility.
“We’re going to have some tournaments this year where our No. 4 beats our No. 1 or our No. 5 beats our No. 2. That’s a good problem to have. They’ve got each others back, they’re all solid. We can just play our game,” Mefford said.
Butler was the catalyst that drove the keys to the bus the early part of last season, winning a couple of tournaments that included a career-low 66 at Lake Side Golf Course, winning the Henry Clay Invitational. He hit a bit of a struggle after that through the rest of the season, but feels like that was a valuable learning experience that all starts with his mental game.
“After my 66 last year, I just got in a slump that went into region. My swing coach has really helped me get my swing back together since then and my biggest goal this year is to get to state and finish top three as a team,” Butler said. “I knew my swing was getting away from me last year. It was all in my head after that and I couldn’t get it out. I was just afraid to swing. I just want to be better than I was last year at the end of the season at least. I feel my mental game is getting there, still has ways to go, but better than last year.”
He’ll start as the team’s No. 1 golfer on Friday.
Shepherd will be the No. 2, improving each season and putting things together at the 12th Region Tournament last year to qualify individually after a five-man playoff and punch his ticket to Bowling Green.
“He’s right there with Mason, just a few strokes off. He’s going to battle and has got so much better. Off the tee, irons are crisp, chipping and putting. His putting is fantastic, he still gets down a little bit, but has grown out of that. He’s solid and ready to go,” Mefford said.
Kaden Grooms is the No. 3, as he looks for more consistency throughout the year. Grooms has the capability to shoot the lowest score on the team some days.
“Kaden shoots 87 one day and then one-under another day. He’s got all the talent in the world, especially on the greens,” Mefford said.
Schumacher, the lone senior, is the No. 4 and is a miracle to be where he is at this point. Less than three months ago, he suffered a devastating fall from about 80-feet at Lockegee Rock in Morehead, needing to be airlifted to University of Kentucky medical center. After months of recovery, Schumacher was hitting golf balls as soon as he could to ramp up for his senior season.
“It’s amazing. I wished to get back on the course every day I was in the hospital or at home. I just prayed that I would get back out here on the course here with these guys and play with them,” Schumacher said. “All I thought about was golf and trying to get back on the course even when I wasn’t supposed to. I was going out and hitting golf balls when I wasn’t allowed to hit. I’d just go out there and play.”
Once cleared, Schumacher hit his rehab hard and did enough to qualify for the top five despite being at about 75 percent at the moment. If one player on the team knows it’s not about how you start the season, but finish it, it’s Schumacher. After an up-and-down junior season, Schumacher put it all together at the 12th Region tournament, finishing runner-up and qualifying for the state tournament.
“I’m just going to give it my all this year. Mentally and at the game, just try and shoot in the 70’s every time and be consistent this year,” Schumacher said. “Last year with these guys and give it everything I got. It’s a good experience to be back out here on the course. I’ve learned throughout all this I can’t take anything for granted.”
Ring’s the No. 5 and his hard work in the offseason got him to this point.
“He worked his tail off. He’s been playing 36 holes a day. For him to get in that top five to start the season is a big deal for him and just so proud of him,” Mefford said.
Mefford’s plan is to bring as many golfers as allowed to each tournament/invitational they play in, which will give Feldhaus and Quin Grooms plenty of chances to play into the top five based off strokes.
“Jake was only four strokes behind qualifying as a seventh grader. His age and he’s going to be a force obviously until he graduates. Quin is right there too, had a couple of bad rounds in qualifying. But he’ll be right there and will be a battle all season among these guys,” Mefford said.
Like every golf season, the first couple of weeks are the most busy time of year. In the first 13 days, the Royals will have played in eight tournaments/matches.
“Once we tee off tomorrow, it’s a real grind for a couple of weeks. Friday starts with the site of the 12th Region Tournament. We’ve played there enough and have won there too. We’ve got good vibes going there and have a really good mindset for the start of the season,” Mefford said.
From there, they have seven tournaments scheduled before the 12th Region Tournament comes September 28.
Once it comes region tourney time, the Royals are expected to be up there with Montgomery County again, last season’s champ, defeating the Royals by four strokes. Greenup County was the only other threat, seven strokes behind the Royals in third.
Individually, Butler, Shepherd, Grooms and Schumacher will all be considered to be up there individually in region, defending champ Logan McCormick from Montgomery County, his teammate Chandler McCoy, Ashland Blazer’s Connor Calhoun, Fleming County’s Logan Hughes, Greenup County’s Dylan Stultz and Lewis County’s Logan Liles all expected to be in that mix to win the region individually.
Evan Schumacher; 12
Mason Butler; 11
Logan Shepherd; 11
Zack Ring; 11
Kaden Grooms; 11
Tre Cracraft; 10
Grant Owens; 10
Quin Grooms; 9
Joseph Hazlett; 9
Jake Feldhaus; 7
Noah Gardner; 7
DATE; EVENT/MATCH; COURSE
July 31; Rowan County Invitational; Eagle Trace
Aug. 1; Mason County/St. Patrick Invitational; Maysville CC
Aug. 3; Ashland Invitational; Bellefonte CC
Aug. 4; Cooper Classic; Boone Trace
Aug. 5; Highlands Invitational; AJ Jolley
Aug. 6; Beechwood Invitational;
Aug. 10; Frederick Douglass Invitational; The Greenbrier
Aug. 12; Ripley; Laurel Oaks
Aug. 15; Scott County Invitational; Cherry Blossom
Aug. 22; Laurel Oaks Classic; Laurel Oaks
Aug. 29; Henry Clay Invitational; Lake Side
Aug. 30; Grant County Classic; Pendleton Hills
Sept. 5; Chip McDaniel Invitational; Boone’s Trace
Sept. 12; Montgomery County Invitational; Golf at The Acorns
Sept. 19-20; KGCA All-State Tournament; UK Club
Sept. 28; 12th Region Tournament; Eagle Trace