CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – School is still several weeks away, but high school sports have begun, as the golf season gets underway Tuesday afternoon.
Two schools in particular will draw the attention of most around this area, considering four Class AAA team state championships have been won by them in the past nine years.
Rossview and Clarksville High enter the 2014 golf season with the same expectations, the same sense of rivalry, but with two brand-new golf coaches.
The Lady Wildcats saw the departure of Vicki Moncrief after last fall and the arrival of J.T. Batson this past spring. Batson will lead CHS this season as the Lady Wildcats look to regain top form in District 10-AAA. Moncrief was at the helm when Clarksville captured back-to-back state championships in 2011 and 2012.
Meanwhile, Rossview — which captured state championships in 2003 and 2008 — finished state runner-up last year and returns all three players who participated in that second-place finish in 3A last fall in Manchester. But this season Rossview will be led by former Lady Hawks softball coach Phil Burkhart.
“It’s a new venture for me but I’m excited about it because the talent here is incredible,” Burkhart said. “I have six girls who can compete at a high level and win a state championship, and our expectations will be high. I just have to come in and keep the ship afloat.”
Rossview will come into the season as the district favorite as it returns Hanley Long, Reagan Greene and Caroline Caudill. Long and Greene are seniors, while Caudill returns as a sophomore this season. Caroline’s sister, Catherine, will also be on the team as a freshman. And all four have had strong summer junior tour tournaments.
“They have experience and they’ll be motivated,” Burkhart said. “And they understand what’s at stake.”
The Clarksville-Rossview rivalry applies to all sports but particularly in golf, as both have competed for not only local bragging rights but for state bragging rights.
“I think as a student that goes to CHS or Rossview, automatically this is the big rivalry in town,” Batson said. “Getting to know the girls over the last three weeks, there’s that fire to compete against Rossview. Sure, they want to win against each other, because they know each other so well.”
Batson’s team returns a senior, four sophomores and welcomes a talented freshman, Cameron Waltman, to the group. Ally Smith is the lone senior but has a wealth of talent in teammates Riley Cooper, Mariah Smith and Breanna Smith. All three are sophomores, along with Gracie Barrett.
Batson said he isn’t sure who will be his top three golfers this season, citing the availability of each player in any given tournament.
“Out of the six girls I have, they’re all playing well right now in the summer tournaments,” Batson said. “They play so many tournaments outside of high school that a lot of my choices as to who plays will hinge on who’s available. I don’t have a top three right now.”
Rossview will open the season with only two golfers available to compete in the opener at The Links at Novadell in Hopkinsville Tuesday. The Lady Hawks will compete in Tullahoma Thursday.
But both Batson and Burkhart don’t need to get caught up on how intense the rivalry can get. Batson has been a longtime soccer coach at Clarksville High and understands the athletic makeup of the city as a Northeast graduate. Batson took over the CHS boys soccer program after legendary coach Dave Donahue. Burkhart stepped down as Rossview’s softball coach after 10 years near the end of May, but now finds himself at the helm of a potential state title team.
“Both of the new coaches coming in, the good part about that is it’s a new era,” Batson said. “The players know each other and have grown up with or against each other. We all know each other. Favorite or not, you have to show up and play.”
George Robinson. Prep writer. 245-0747. email@example.com. Follow on Facebook and Twitter: @Cville_Sports.