New-look St. X shoots for third straight state title

New-look St. X shoots for third straight state title

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New-look St. X shoots for third straight state title

Ballard boys, Sacred Heart and Shelby County girls return plenty of talent

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Ballard boys, Sacred Heart and Shelby County girls return plenty of talent

A 2010 graduate of St. Xavier High School, Patrick Sullivan knows all about the expectations of a Tigers golf program that has won a record 20 state titles, including two in a row.

So even with all five starters lost from last season, Sullivan doesn’t expect the program to slip in his first season as head coach.

“The program has a very rich tradition, and we expect every year to be contending for a state championship,” Sullivan said. “That’s just the way it is. I don’t look at it as pressure. You set your expectations high … and maybe that comes with some pressure to produce. These guys are going to try to make names for themselves.”

The high school golf season opened around Kentucky on Friday. Here’s a look at some of the top teams and players from the Louisville area:

BOYS

Four of St. X’s five starters from last season moved on to college golf programs – Allen Hamilton and Matt Liston at Kentucky, Billy Basham at Eastern Kentucky and Michael Sass at College of Charleston.

Also gone is Dan Utley, who led the Tigers to four state titles in eight seasons as head coach.

Enter Sullivan, who played at Bellarmine University before serving as an assistant coach at St. X last season.

“I’m still learning, trying to figure everything out,” Sullivan said. “I’m implementing things I want to do and also trying to build off what coaches in the past have done. As far as me and the players, the transition has gone smoothly.”

The Tigers have a roster of 22 players, including 10 or 11 Sullivan said could enter the starting five once the postseason approaches. Senior Clay Amlung, junior Jay Kirchendorfer and sophomore Andrew Sullivan gained valuable experience last season. Drew Doyle has emerged as the leader of a talented group of eight freshmen.

“It will be my job to put the best five guys out there,” Sullivan said. “There is a ton of potential.”

Ballard (10th place) and Bullitt East (missed cut) were the other Louisville-area teams to reach the state tournament last season.

Ballard returns a trio of starters in juniors Dominic Ramsey, Anuj Chhabra and Jensen Klondike. Coach Pat Heitz said sophomores Miles Parroco and Coleton Burch will round out the starting five.

Bullitt East returns seniors Zach Taylor and Zak Holden and junior Mark Murphy.

Other top individuals from the Louisville area include Christian Academy senior Hayden Zimmerer, North Oldham senior Mason Lenhart and Trinity sophomore Evan Bone. Zimmerer tied for eighth place in last year’s state tournament, and Lenhart tied for 15th place.

GIRLS

Sacred Heart finished sixth in the state tournament last season, ending its run of four straight state championships.

The Valkyries should be in the hunt again this year with the return of four starters – senior Morgan Tinsley, juniors Ryan Bender and Erin Rowland and sophomore Taylor Edlin. Bender, daughter of coach Leslie Bender, was the Region Five champion last season.

Shelby County will return all five players from its team that tied for ninth place in the state tournament – seniors Lilly Young, Jenna Lewis and Jennifer Fuqua, junior Faith Wiley and eighth-grader Grace Clark. Young, daughter of coach Melissa Young, has committed to Northern Kentucky University.

Manual junior Lucy Suo and South Oldham sophomore Molly Jo Bebelaar are other top individuals from the Louisville area.

Defending state champion Madison Central lost three of its five starters to graduation.

Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and jfrakes@courier-journal.com.

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