By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — The Greater Western Ohio Conference may have a new look this year.
But the Troy boys golf team will boast plenty of familiar faces.
Even after graduating state qualifier Troy Moore, the Trojans’ top six golfers entering the fall season all saw varsity time last year, with five of them being regular starters at times, if not all year. And with all of that experience coming back, Troy is once again looking to earn a place atop the division — even if it’s called the GWOC American North Division and has a slightly different lineup of teams.
“I’m real happy with this year’s group. This is a good group of kids that has played a lot of golf,” Troy coach Mark Evilsizor said. “There will be no excuses so far as experience is concerned this year.”
And a lot of that experience will come from one of the team’s younger stars in sophomore Holden Scribner.
“We expect big things from Holden this year,” Evilsizor said. “He’ll be our No. 1. As far as tournament play goes, he’s probably our most experienced golfer.”
During his freshman season last year, Scribner showed some of that tournament experience, too, winning the Hadley Fall Classic at Weatherwax Golf Course by shooting a 1-under-par 71, drilling two eagles in the process. A few weeks later, he shot a 77 there at the district tournament and narrowly missed a chance to join teammate Moore at state.
Junior Nate Uhlenbrock also brings back plenty of experience this season, and Evilsizor and company have lofty expectations for him, as well.
“Nate will be a three-year starter for us this season,” Evilsizor said. “He’s started for me since he was a freshman, and we expect big things from him, too.”
From there, the Trojans have a group of four seniors that all have experience on varsity, particularly last season, in Austin Rank, Ryan McClurg, Keaton Pfeiffer and Jack Johnston.
“Austin, Ryan and Keaton played quite a bit of varsity for us last year,” Evilsizor said. “And Jack played up with us in one match. This senior class is my first class from my first year, when I started coaching here four years ago. It’s a really neat group, and they’ve all played together since they were freshman.
“Maybe I’ve been fortunate to have, or they’ve been unfortunate enough to play behind some really great golfers over the past few years, guys like Troy Moore and Connor Super and Dalton Cascaden. That maybe explains why some of these guys aren’t three- or four-year starters. But this is their chance to be the leaders this season.”
And while that lineup seems rock solid, there are still younger players that are hungry for an opportunity, as well.
“Last year, we played 10 guys on varsity. To be honest, I don’t expect to do that this year,” Evilsizor said. “But we have six guys on JV — with five of those six being sophomores, and the other Zach Uhlenbrock, Nate’s freshman younger brother — and if anyone catches fire, I’m going to play my best six guys on that given day. I make no guarantees, but that’s the nice thing about golf. It’s cut and dry who’s playing well and who’s not. It’s not a matter of the coach’s opinion. The numbers are right there.”
And while the American North Division is only different by adding one team — Tippecanoe — the Trojans will still be looking to compete with traditional foe Butler for the title.
“We’re very familiar with Tippecanoe already, play them once or twice a year. So that won’t be a big adjustment,” Evilsizor said. “But the cream of the crop is still Butler. They only lost one guy, and all four scores that counted when we played head-to-head are returning for them. They’re the group we’re eyeing right now.”
But the format for deciding the title is slightly different — those head-to-head division matches won’t count towards it. only the Pre- and Postseason GWOC Tournaments will.
“That puts a big emphasis on Friday for us,” said Evilsizor, referring to the Preseason GWOC Tournament at Beechwood in three days. “And of course, we’ll want to be playing well at the end of the season for the Post. We’ve got a good team, too, and even though we want to be better than Butler every time we see them, we need to focus on beating them on two days in particular.”
With a lot of returning firepower from the team that finished third in the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division last season, the Milton-Union Bulldogs are hoping to be able to make some moves forward and even compete for the title.
Parker Puthoff and Hayden Davidson return and likely will occupy the top two spots, with Philip Brumbaugh and Aaron Brown also returning and Conner Staley rounding out the top five. Newcomer Justin Brown could also make the varsity roster to add more depth.
“Last year, we placed third in the SWBL Buckeye Division. We are looking to improve that standing,” said Milton-Union coach Brett Barnes, preparing for his second with the team. “Our ultimate goal is to win the league this season.”
* Miami East
Miami East graduated six seniors in the offseason, but third-year coach Terry Henley still wants to see his team competing for Cross County Conference supremacy and going deep in the postseason.
“We have a young team, with six coachable freshman — but we lost six seniors,” Henley said. “Our goals are to win the league and advance in the state tournament.”
Dylan Martinez and Walker Henley return to add experience to the roster, with newcomers Zac Johnson, Duncan Schmackers, Cooper Elleman and Luke Gilliland seeking the chance to contribute.
Though the Bethel Bees will have a lot of holes to fill this season after graduating four golfers, senior Tyler Weinert is returning to lead the team as it looks to gain experience throughout the season.
“Tyler is a three-time All-Cross County Conference performer and two-time district qualifier,” Bethel coach Brett Brookhart said. “Tyler will be one of the top golfers in the CCC this year. He has some big goals going into his senior season, and he will be fun to watch this year.”
Fellow senior Christian White also returns to the team, with juniors Brayden Rowley, Adam Donahue, Austin Bird and Riley Whalen joining the varsity team.
“We lost four of our top six golfers from last year after finishing fourth in the CCC, so we have many open spots to fill,” Brookhart said. “We will be very inexperienced, so hopefully we can improve throughout the season and finish in the top half of the CCC.”
After graduating leader Brock Jamison, the Newton Indians have to replace one of the Cross County Conference’s top golfers from each of the past two years.
Senior Milan Bess and junior Drew Thiesing add experience to the team, while sophomore Chet Jamison got a start last season and is hoping to step into his older brother’s role.
“Chet will try to follow in his big brother Brock’s shoes,” Newton coach Randall Jamison said. “Brock was the CCC Golfer of the Year his junior year and runner-up last year. Our goal as a team will be to improve all year and finish strong. If we win 50 percent of our matches, it will be a great year. Our goals that we set are realistic and are set to be achieved.”
Bill Wise is back for his 11th year as the Covington boys golf coach, and while his team may be inexperienced this year, junior Andrew Slusher could provide just the leadership the Buccaneers need — though he still could use some help.
Joining Slusher will be senior returner Derek McCool and sophomores Hunter Alexander and Jack Shell, with sophomores Thomas Keuther and Garrett Warner and freshman Dylan Lucas adding depth to the squad.
“Andrew should compete for player of the year in the Cross County Conference,” Wise said. “He’s continued to work hard over the summer and will be our top scorer this season. Derek will have to step up and help lead this young team. We are very young and inexperienced, but our goal is to improve each week and continue to build for the future.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.