BETHEL – The upcoming golf season will be the fourth varsity campaign for Bethel-Tate High School coach Brett Harris and his prize pupil, Mitchell McElfresh.
Each August begins with McElfresh and a number of Cardinals on the Friendly Meadows driving range. By last September, Bethel-Tate’s top player was in the district tournament.
McElfresh typically is left alone by Harris, who often concentrates on the rest of his golfers that may need a grip adjustment or advice on correcting a slice. Often times, he’s working with a student who is a first-time player.
Some of his current players started as new golfers and Harris has enjoyed watching them improve over a four-year span.
“Two of them were first-team all-league,” he said. “It’s kind of cool to watch the progression of them gaining confidence and enjoying the game.”
The upperclassmen now share with the young Tigers their stories of early “worm-burners” and mishits. For every good round some of them have, there’s been a bad round as a beginner.
On the other hand, McElfresh was never raw.
“He was one of the few golfers you get as a freshman who’s ready,” Harris said. “With Mitchell it was how to score better. We have to game plan and make decisions to fine-tune his game. For Mitchell, it’s what are we thinking when we hit the ball. That’s something he’s really worked on the last two or three years.”
At the district tournament, McElfresh was even par on his last 12 holes and hopes to return for a deeper run later this fall.
Along with him, Blake Combs and Jacob Dahlmeier are seniors who can occasionally pull off a “wow” shot.
Combs just came out last year, while Dahlmeier is a four-year player who achieved first-team all-league last season. In his initial season, Combs was a second-team SBAAC-National pick.
Also on the team is full-time swimmer and part-time golfer, Gracyn McQueary, the lone female. Though she spent much of the summer in the water, she has worked on her strokes with the club.
“I know she’s been golfing a lot,” Harris said. “She got some new equipment over the winter and she’s texted me some questions, so she’s ready to go.”
Harris believes there’s a lot of turnover in the SBAAC-National and believes the division is up for grabs.
The league culminates in an 18-hole tournament at Deer Track Sept. 19.
Jason Lumpkin returns as the golf coach at Felicity-Franklin, where he’s still seeking students to swing the club. The Cardinals will again play at Colonial Pines right outside of Felicity.
“It’s just a little public course,” Lumpkin said. “You don’t have a lot of ball marks. It’s really nice.”
Of those signed up to play, two are girls in a league that is coed.
“Many of them have never played before,” Lumpkin said.
Boys on the team are senior Matthew Cornelison, juniors Cody Green, Joey Liming and Logan Cumby and freshman Jared Hamilton. The most experienced returning girl is Sarah Hogue, who will be joined by Sydney Stamper.
“I have a bunch of new guys that haven’t really played much but are athletic guys,” Lumpkin said. “I feel like I’m going to be surprised. Cody Green from basketball is joining us.”
Lumpkin teaches AP Calculus at Felicity-Franklin, but will also try to derive a formula to get more golfers on the course.
The Cardinals tee it up at Colonial Pines with Amelia Aug. 13. The next day they hit the road to face Western Brown.
McNicholas enters the season with an embarrassment of riches, only losing Nick Niehaus from last year’s team that qualified for state.
Chris Dunne, the reigning GCL Coed player of the year, and fellow GCL Coed first teamers Ty DeBonis and Zane Brownrigg are back for more this season.
“It’s difficult to repeat as the conference player of the year,” said Justin Lenczicki, reigning GCL Coed coach of the year. “Chris is one player who continues to get better… he isn’t OK with reaching that plateau.
“When they get together, they are the biggest goofballs. But when they step onto the course and flip that switch, they are all business. This class of 2017 has been unbelievable.”
DeBonis made first-team all-state as well. He carded a 75 on the second day of the state tournament. He finished tied for fourth with a total score of 155.
Brownrigg, who wasn’t known for being a big hitter, has stepped up his game according to Lenczicki. The coach said he is consistently carding scores in the 70s and is always looking to get better.
Cameron Massa, Chris Wells and Alex Burch round out the lineup.
An important date on the Rockets’ schedule is the King of the Hill match with neighborhood rivals Turpin and Anderson.
The Rockets have won two years in a row.
“Coach Price was giving me some lip about taking the title from us this year,” Lenczicki said with a laugh. “He said the Spartans were going to give us a run for our money.”
Players to watch
Mitchell McElfresh, Bethel-Tate. SBAAC-National Player of the Year and district tournament participant.