“Keeping up with the Joneses” could be a recurring theme in girls golf this season.
Alexis Jones, a 14-year-old freshman, is already making a varsity splash for Shelby after winning the Tri-County Women’s Championship (formerly the Richland County) by an astonishing 18 strokes this summer.
Her cousin, Tori Jones, was a Division I sectional medalist last season for Ashland and is a big reason the Arrows will be looking for repeat titles in the sectionals and North Central Ohio Girls Golf League.
“Alexis has been a nice addition to our team, socially and competitively,” said Shelby coach Rene Burtscher, in her 12th year at the helm. “The girls get along really well and she fits right in. They enjoy each other’s company and everyone is working really hard.”
In addition to beating the top women in the area at the Tri-County, Alexis competed up in the 15-19 division of the Lake Erie Junior Golf Association, finishing first in six of the seven LEJGA tournaments she played with an average of 76.
Alexis also qualified for the PGA Junior Series tournament at Westbrook Country Club, carding an 85-84-79 for fourth place in her age group.
So far this season, she’s been runner-up at the Edison Invitational, shooting a 72 at Thunderbird South. She also finished runner-up in the Shelby Invitational with a 79.
Alexis’ strong work ethic is bound to rub off on her teammates, although Burtscher noted that senior twins Morgan and Rachel Brumenschenkel and junior Chelsea Ridenour were already spending a lot of time honing their skills as well.
“I remember driving past the golf course (Shelby Country Club) when Alexis was only in elementary school and she’d be out there at 8:30 at night,” Burtscher said. “I’m thinking most girls her age would be at home, getting a bath, and she’s out on the course. She’s very dedicated.”
The timing of Alexis’ arrival couldn’t be more perfect. For the first time, there are enough schools in the Northern Ohio League — with the addition of Ontario — to hold a league tournament. The Whippets will also be competing in the NCOGGL tournament at Brookside in Ashland on Sept. 21.
Sophomore Kristian McLaughlin joins the Brumenschenkels and Ridenour as Shelby veterans, while freshman Macie Bricker and junior Annie Williams join Jones as new additions.
“The key to our season will be good course management,” Burtscher said. “We need to reduce the number of shots around the green and not dwell on a bad shot. Learn from it instead and think about the next shot.”
Tori Jones’ older sister, Taylor, helped Ashland to two straight top 10 finishes at the state tournament before playing her senior year for Burtscher at Shelby. That year, the Whippets set school records for nine and 18 holes.
Those records may fall with a new Jones in the fold.
“It’s one of our goals this season,” Burtscher said. “We were two strokes from tying it for nine holes in our first match.
“The team we had with Taylor had a couple of other girls who could shoot 80. I know Morgan and Rachel have that potential. Our four top girls have a lot of skills. It’s just a matter of putting it together.”
Tori Jones brings back the lowest average (44.5) of Ashland’s returnees, but right there with her are Nicolette Bowersock (46.2), Jeanna Hopton (46.3), and Catherine Swan (50.1). Freshmen Natalie Shultz and Emily Brustowski are also in the mix. Shultz shot 38 in one of Ashland’s matches.
“Tori’s probably our most capable player and one of our best talents; she just needs to figure some things out,” coach Steve Paramore said. “As she gains more confidence, she’ll be a force to reckon with.”
Showing a glimpse of her potential at last year’s sectionals, Tori dethroned medalist Theresa-Ann Jedra, who went on to finish fourth at state for Lexington.
With Jedra now playing for Indiana University and district qualifier Isabelle Clairmonte also departing, this will be a rebuilding year for Lex. The only returning veterans are juniors Alex Sazdanoff and Natasha Mack and sophomore Abby Conover.
“Inexperience is an area of concern, but the players worked real hard in the spring and summer to make up for it,” said coach Mike Kathrein, who founded the program four years ago. “It’s a great group to work with and we hope to finish well at the league tournament.”
Caitlin Smith, Crestview’s lone golfer, took a backseat last year to the school’s state champion boys team. But Smith advanced to districts and hopes to take that final step to state.
Led by coach Cary Carcione, new Northern Ohio League member Ontario is fielding a golf team for the firwst team. Seniors Allison Chelski and Jane Carcione, juniors Abby Petty and Aailyah Snyder and freshman Jerrylynn Combs make up the squad.