By Garth Shanklin
Local golfers got into the swing of things this week with the official start to the regular season.
There are changes aplenty throughout Clermont County, the biggest of which can be seen at West Clermont High School.
This time last year, the Wolves didn’t exist. Amelia and Glen Este High Schools officially merged over the summer, and head coach Mike Niehaus is ready to lead the team into the regular season.
“I’m excited to be part of this new fantastic program,” Neihaus said. “Terry Helton, the boys varsity coach for Amelia last year and now the girls varsity coach at West Clermont, did a tremendous job working with players I’ve inherited from Amelia. Together with the youth of Glen Este whom I coached, I anticipate a very solid group that will represent West Clermont well in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference. I really hope to sneak up on what have been historically strong golfing programs at Milford, Loveland, Anderson, Turpin, Kings and all others in the ECC.”
The team consists of junior Nick Diana and sophomore Hunter Melon. Seniors Ryan Hall, Tyler Brown, Elijah Leiman and Brad Hall round out the team. Brown placed fourth in the SBAAC last season, with Ryan Hall right behind in fifth.
West Clermont will sport a junior varsity squad this season as well, giving Niehaus a bit of depth if necessary. That said, the coach said he hopes the team improves enough to finish “in the middle of the pack” this season.
ECC rival Milford is hoping for a slightly better finish. The Eagles have won the league for three straight years, and first-year head coach Andrew Horn hopes to make it four. Milford has a trio of starters returning from last season, including Justin Horn, Cameron Loux, and Trey Robinson. Toss in the additions of Cole Watson and Max Steinmetz, and Horn says the Eagles have a great mix of returning players and newcomers to a team that just missed advancing through the sectional tournament in 2015.
In the SBAAC, the Batavia Bulldogs placed first in the league in 2016. The team returns just one starter from that squad, however: junior Ethan Berger. He, along with seniors Micah Staggs, Jerod Herron and Will Scheffter will look to continue the Batavia title streak this season, though head coach Randy Jones has a different goal.
“It’d be nice to finish in the top four teams,” Jones said. “We know we have our work cut out for us.”
In the National Division, the defending champion CNE Rockets have a new head coach this season. Ernie Harvilla takes over for Brandon Hoeppner, who now coaches the Lady Rockets’ golf team. Harvilla returns five starters from last season, including first-team all-conference performers Noah Hoeppner and Chris Moorhouse. Foster Kuntz returns for his sophomore campaign as well after a second-team all-league performance in 2016.
Finally, the Felicity-Franklin Cardinals return three golfers from a team that placed fifth in the league by two strokes last season. The squad consisted of five freshman and a sophomore last year, with Nate Buckler’s 368 score the best of any Cardinal in the SBAAC tournament. He joins Jared Hamilton and Paul Bostic as returners from last season who will continue to start, though every Felicity golfer returns this season. Nathan Peace and Riley Pinger join the team as newcomers in 2017.
On the girls’ side, the Milford Lady Eagles return most of their varsity players from last season’s team that placed second in the ECC. Casey Broxterman, Bre Severns, Megan Loux, Megan Lafrance and Morgan Clawson are expected to help the Lady Eagles make a run at the league title. Head coach Matt Thompson enters his second season at the helm, and he said he has noticed changes in the varsity players’ games this year.
“I’ve seen great improvement in their games,” Thompson said. “We also have three freshman that have very solid games.”
One of the newer programs in the area calls New Richmond High School home. The Lady Lions teed off for the first time as a team last season, and that new experience has head coach Brad Hatfield excited for the season.
“This team has more overall experience than last years team and is very enthusiastic about practicing and improving,” Hatfield said. “I expect this team to have fun and improve their golf skills.”
Katie Gardner and Tatem Lindner are a pair to keep an eye on this season, with Brooke Parker, Meadow Holcomb and Jetta McCart also returning. Gone is senior Laura Wilson, who placed 18th in the sectional tournament last season.
The Goshen Lady Warriors begin play this season under the watchful eye of head coach Lisa Smith. The team consists of a trio of juniors, Made Arnett, Whitney Turner and Taylor Munafo. Sophomore Brocken Wells and freshman Brooke Reeves round out the squad.