By Chris Chaney
The 2012 golf season in the Southern Buckeye Conference has been dominated by the New Richmond Lions, and while the Lions are well represented in the conference’s postseason awards, their work is not done yet.
With six players earning their way onto the All-Star team by virtue of their play over four nine-hole rounds plus an 18-hole league tournament, the Lions are by far the most well-rounded team in the league. Add to the equation that they had the Coach of the Year, Phil Heflin, guiding them there and a clearer picture starts to take shape as to why the Lions are such a formidable opponent.
“To be named Coach of the Year is an honor just for the simple fact that it shows the hard work that the boys have put in,” Heflin said. “I’m a firm believer that coaches are only as good as their players and it was more than just me having something to do with that.”
The Lions’ First Team Selections were Bryce Kroeger, Chris Mazzaro, Evan McKinley, David Ohntrup and Austin Wells. Kyle Heidlage wrapped up Second Team honors.
The only member of the First Team that isn’t a Lion is Amelia’s Jake Brinkler, who was also named as Player of the Year in the American Division.
“Jake Brinkler is my No. 1 player. He just earned his 14th of the season and I think he might be the only athlete in golf to do that,” Amelia head coach Creed Cornett said.
Brinkler earned his Player of the Year honors by virtue of his 221 total over 54 holes, edging New Richmond’s Mazzaro by 11 strokes.
The Second Team members in the American Division were Josh Adkins and Trent Edwards of Amelia, Tyler Hauck and Mitchell McElfresh of Bethel, Jacob Ashner of Goshen, Heidlage of New Richmond and Brad Hamblen of Western Brown.
The Lions were able to win the American Division pretty comfortably, defeating second-place Amelia by 90 strokes overall, but the National Division was a tighter race.
Georgetown was able to edge second-place Williamsburg by just 9 strokes over the course of
the season to claim the league championship. The Wildcats, led by senior Kendall Young, only placed two players on the All-Conference teams, which speaks to their consistency and depth throughout their lineup.
While Young and Max Maden were the only two members of Williamsburg named to the All-Conference team, Josh Wells, Chris Hance and Braden Scott did their part to keep the Wildcats in every match they played.
The SBC-National individual awards were won by Grant Ledford of Blanchester (Player of the Year) and Sherri Griffith of Georgetown (Coach of the Year).
The First Team All-Stars were Austin Conner of Batavia, Ledford, Ben Fraizier of Clermont Northeastern, Clinton McElroy and Trent Poe of Georgetown and Young of Williamsburg.
On the Second Team, Kyle Grant and Ben McDonough of Batavia were honored along with Reilly Hopkins of Blanchester, Kiefer Cunningham of CNE, Austin Briggs of Georgetown and Madsen of Williamsburg.
Next up for the linksters is the postseason. The first leg of the state tournament took place on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at sectionals. Most of the Southern Buckeye Conference schools competing played their rounds at Glenview Golf Course.
While New Richmond has hopes of getting their entire team through to districts, Heflin was concerned about their ability to do so as a result of the Lions being moved up to Division I.
“Our expectations are if we can go in and shoot under 312 or 310 to qualify as a team for districts,” he said. “If are unable to qualify as a team, then of course I would like to take as many individuals out as possible.”
While the Lions have their work cut out for them as a team, senior Austin Wells has experience as a district qualifier last season. Also with district experience is Amelia’s Jake Brinkler, who qualified as a sophomore.
“When he went to districts, he let the game get to him,” Cornett said. “There was a lot of pressure on him. Now, he plays a lot more tournaments and he doesn’t worry about what other golfers are doing. He plays his game and that’s what made him consistent this year.”
If players are able to qualify out of sectionals, the district tournament will be held on Thursday, Oct. 11 at Weatherwax Golf Course in Middletown.