It may be wet, but at least it has been warm in recent days as area high school boys golf teams prepare to start regular season play in the next few days.
A handful of teams look like true contenders in the always competitive Tri-Eastern Conference, where the title has been shared for the past two seasons.
Roger Martin returns with a very young and talented group of Bulldogs boys golfers, a roster composed of eight sophomores and a freshman.
Leading the large sophomore group is TEC medalist Mason Rader, and he is joined by classmates Keaton Williams, Noah Reisner, Skyler Benedict, Aydan Koyles and Josh Duke.
Rader was also the sectional medalist.
“I think my sophomore group is much improved, they have played a lot and worked hard in the offseason,” Martin said of the majority of his young squad.
He sees a wide open conference race, with many teams capable of becoming a factor in the TEC, such as his team, Union County, Northeastern, Hagerstown, and even Winchester and maybe Union City.
The Bulldogs went 7-0 in dual matches a year ago, and were second in the TEC Tournament, behind Union County. Centerville also advanced to the regional.
“We hope to develop good depth, I think that is the key to the conference,” he added.
One team that has been co-champion in each of those seasons is Union County, and the Patriots are again coached this spring by Tony Gulley, who is in his 17th season.
“I think we have a chance in the conference, but I think there are a number of teams that could be a factor,” Gulley said.
According to Gulley, the top returning Union County boys golfers are senior Cody Frame, and a pair of juniors in Jake Antrim and Dillon Miller.
Also fighting for varsity slots are senior Spencer Swafford, junior Derrick Frasur, plus sophomores Tyler Dunn, Trevor Bowling and Owen Miller. The Patriots won last year’s TEC Tournament.
UC conference matches are slated to start Wednesday vs. Centerville, then the Pats are scheduled to compete in Richmond’s Justin Cross Invitational on April 18.
Billy Mullin is the new high school head coach at Hagerstown, and will build his squad on three returning Tiger players, and eight newcomers to the HHS program.
Juniors Ben Tinkle and Jonathan Clark return to lead the way, and senior Tyler Cowan is another returning player.
“My two returning juniors are not only good players, but really good kids and leaders as well,” Mullin said by phone. “Tyler Cowan is a good returning player also, and Andy Gevedon, a move-in from Eaton, Ohio, is an experienced high school golfer.”
The rest of the lineup will be filled by some of the group of seven freshmen players in Kevin Beeson, Nate Burns, Caleb Cochran, Kyle Cochran, Noah Hancock, Austin Herr and Luke Lannan.
Hagerstown is scheduled to start its season at the Yorktown Invitational on Saturday.
Coach Phil Renforth is working with six Golden Eagle players as the team prepares for its season opener Monday versus Randolph Southern.
The lone senior is all-TEC player Eric Underwood, a regional qualifier last season. Junior A. J. Ogle is back, and he was all-conference also in 2014.
Joining those two are junior Seth Randall, sophomores Dustin Catron and Chris Gravener, plus freshman Garrett Mead.
“I look to Union County, Hagerstown and Centerville as the top TEC contenders, but other teams, like us, could be a factor also,” Renforth said.
The Knights have a balance of youth and upperclassmen among 14 players for coach Mark Bevins.
Seniors Cole Morrison, Kohl Hoskins, Matt Vecera and Austin Barker are among the players battling for varsity spots.
Bevins sees three underclassmen as top returning varsity players in junior Austin Clay, along with sophomores Garrett Schuler and Bryce Cowen.
NHS again will play home matches at Highland Lake Golf Course, which is the site for this year’s TEC tournament.
“I look to Centerville and Hagerstown as teams that seem destined to compete in conference, but I think our team can compete, and some others also,” Bevins said.
The Knights are schedule to open at home against Franklin County Monday.
Winchester’s boys golf Golden Falcons are usually in the hunt for TEC honors, like the previous conference schools mentioned, and coach Tony Walters returns to help the players do exactly that.
Winchester jumps into conference matches next week versus Union City (Wednesday) and Lincoln (Thursday), then the team plays in the Monroe Central Invitational on April 18.
Seton Catholic has a new coach and four players as the season nears.
Dave Haber is the coach of the Cardinals, and one of the players on the team is his son, sophomore Michael. Also playing boys golf for Seton is junior Ian Kinsey and sophomore Noah Becker. The fourth player is freshman Matthew Moore, so this is another area team with no senior players.
Randolph Southern has a new high school boys golf coach in Curt Grams, and the Rebels have four golfers on the team going into Monday’s season-opening match against Lincoln.
Competing for Southern will be Landon Hathaway, Chris Keister, Kasey Angel and Josh Eyer, and the team is scheduled to play Monroe Central Tuesday, then Seton on April 20, and Blue River April 23.
The team is set to open Monday at the Liberty Country Club against Union County. The team’s first home match will not be until May 7 at the Elks Country Club, with Union County again the opponent.