BETHEL – As the morning dew glistens on the putting green, the Bethel-Tate High School boys golf team has been back for their early gatherings at Friendly Meadows.
Brett Harris is now in his third year leading the Tigers on their home course that sits a few good wood shots between the high school and Hamersville on Ohio 125.
The Tigers move from the Southern Buckeye Conference-American Division to the National this season, which should help as they finished fourth behind larger schools Western Brown, Amelia and New Richmond last fall.
“It’s going to be kind of a dogfight,” Harris said. “I know Georgetown lost two of the best three players. We have a chance maybe to sneak in and surprise some players. I know Blanchester has some seniors that are pretty good and CNE is pretty good.”
Junior Mitchell McElfresh, senior Joey Smith and junior Jacob Dahlheimer return as the Tigers top players and the squad will add a female this season in sophomore Grayson McQueary. Like a few other Clermont County schools, Bethel-Tate does not have a separate girls team so they compete with the guys.
“It’s not really new to the league, but it’s new for us,” Harris said. “The disadvantage is she has to play from the white tees, she doesn’t get to play up on the red.”
The upside for McQueary is she dates McElfresh, which could be a McAdvantage.
McElfresh made the district tournament at Weatherwax last season and was a first team all-league performer.
“He’s been working all summer,” Harris said. “His ball striking is as good as it was last year and he’s sneaky long. This summer, we really worked on his short game so he can consistently get up and down and not make the bogeys he made last year.”
Smith is another taller golfer like McElfresh who should help the Tigers.
“He had some really good rounds for us last year,” Harris said. “He probably has some of the best hands I’ve ever coached. He could probably fall out of bed and get up and down from 40 yards.”
Junior Blake Combs and senior Jacob Trabish round out the squad.
Taking over the Felicity-Franklin golf program is Jason Lumpkin, who has some golf in his blood as his father is the pro at Highlands Golf Course in Kentucky.
He started the ball rolling by holding a nine-hole scramble fundraiser at Colonial Pines off of Ohio 222.
Devon Christensen, Jordan Utter and Lexi Beckford are returning players, with Lexi joining the boys since the girls don’t have a team. Also joining the squad is first-time player and senior Austin May and freshman Paul Smith.
Lumpkin is a math teacher who hopes to offer up instruction in low numbers on the course. Christensen and Utter are in a battle to the be the top player.
“Jordan is doing nothing but improving, so I’m hoping I can get a little competition between those two,” he said.
Utter was second team SBC-National a year ago for the fifth-place Cardinals.
“Last year was the first year we brought the golf team back,” Lumpkin said. “This year we’re trying to kick it up a notch. We absolutely plan on competing in the league. I have a lot of knowledge to give from my Dad.”