Golf Preview

Posted: August 8, 2016
By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI
The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — A year ago, Sherando qualified for its first regional tournament since 2012, and the Warriors nearly qualified for the state tournament, losing in a playoff for the second and final qualifying spot at regionals.

The Warriors lost three of their top six golfers from that team. But based on the season-opening Curly Licklider Invitational on Wednesday at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, Sherando still figures to be the team to beat among local schools.

Among Winchester-Frederick County schools, Sherando not only had the best score in the format used at the Licklider (all six golfers’ scores counted), but the Warriors also would have had the best performance if the traditional four-player score format had been used.

At 338, Sherando’s top four posted a collective total that was better than the totals from Millbrook (351), Handley (360) and James Wood (371) in the 16-team tournament.

And the Warriors’ score likely would have been at least 15 strokes better if they had the services of senior Brett Loy, The Winchester Star’s three-time Golfer of the Year and the only returning member of The Star’s seven-person all-area team.

Loy — the 2014 Group 4A state champion who earned all-state honors by placing sixth at last year’s state tournament — was competing at the prestigious Optimist International Junior Golf Championships in Florida last week, which prevented him from competing in Sherando’s first two tournaments.

Loy obviously makes a big difference in the team scoring. But the difference he makes on his teammates is another part of the reason why Sherando coach Rob Wright thinks this year can be another successful one, even though it might be difficult to unseat defending Conference 21 West tournament champion Woodgrove. The Wolverines had five players shoot in the 70s en route to winning the Licklider.

"Brett’s a lot more than just a good golfer," Wright said. "He’s a good leader, and I can look around today and see some of the ways in which he’s had an impact on his teammates.

"I think [the] five and six [positions] are going to be kind of wide open this year. We’re going to have two sophomores and three freshmen going for those spots. They’ll need to develop, but I think we have the people at the top that can help those at the bottom come on."

In addition to Loy — whose stroke average of 72.2 was seven better than anyone else in the area last year — Sherando also returns seniors Jonah Pearson and Josh Bianco from its top six.

Pearson tied James Wood’s Tyler Mounts for the best score among local 4A golfers at the Curly Licklider with an 81, while Bianco shot an 84.

The rest of the area’s Conference 21 West schools have some big shoes to fill.

Millbrook (Ryan McCarty), Handley (Colleen Connolly) and James Wood (Hunter Hall and Ben Marsh) all lost at least one regional qualifer, and none of the three schools brings back more than three people from their six-person Conference 21 West tournament lineups.

James Wood only brings back one top-six golfer in Mounts, a junior who qualified for the 4A West Region tournament last year. Outside of Sherando, which qualified as a team, Mounts is the only returning regional qualifier among the local Group 4A teams.

The local team that had the best performance at the Licklider was Clarke County. The Eagles not only had the best six-player score to take fourth overall in the 16-team tournament, but they also had the best four-player score among local schools with a 328.

Clarke County qualified for regional tournament play for the first time since 2009 last year, and the Eagles return three of their main scoring golfers — junior Cameron Scheib (who posted the best local score with a 78 at the Licklider), sophomore Raul Viza-Fernandez (second at the Conference 35 tournament last year) and senior Bryson Peyton.

Sophomore Zach Koontz didn’t usually factor into the Eagles’ scoring last year, but his 79 at the Licklider ranked second among local golfers.

The Eagles are being guided by a new coach this year, and she brings high-level playing and coaching experience.

Jessica Zimmerman (formerly Hollandsworth) was a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection at the University of Maryland (2012 graduate), and she served as an assistant coach at James Madison University for two years. In high school, Zimmerman was a two-time Group A individual state champion (boys and girls combined) and team champion for Floyd County (class of 2008) and one-time girls’ state champion for all classes.

Clarke County will next compete today at the first Bull Run District mini tournament at Greene Hills Club in Stanardsville, while Handley, James Wood, Millbrook and Sherando will next play in the opening Northwestern District mini on Tuesday at SVGC.

Sherando

Coach: Rob Wright, 16th year.

Last year: Third in the 4A West Region tournament, second in Conference 21 West, Northwestern District regular season champions.

Key losses: Mason Scott, Josh Hogue, Luke Conner.

Top returnees: Brett Loy, Sr., Jonah Pearson, Sr., Josh Bianco, Sr., Ryan Judy, Jr.; Evan Simmons, Jr.

Key newcomers: Brandon Nice, So., Brady Pellath, So.

Wright’s outlook: "I think we’ll have a solid team once our younger golfers get some more experience. The team that we had last last year had been together for three to four years. They were real friends on and off the course and did a great job of building relationships. Hopefully our current group of young golfers will develop that bond as well and push each other."

James Wood

Coach: David Oates, 4th year.

Last year: Third in Conference 21 West tournament.

Key losses: Zach DeNitto, Cameron Gross, Hunter Hall, Ben Marsh, Doug Watkins.

Top returnees: Tyler Mounts, Jr., Cameron Baker, So., Logan Harper, Jr., Zach Statzenbach, So.

Key newcomers: Ethan Russell, Fr., Drew Johnson, Fr., Ben Ondeck, Fr., Jared Smith, So.

Oates’ outlook: "We’re young and inexperienced. For five of my six kids, [Wednesday was] the first tournament round they’ve ever played. I think we’ll see a lot of improvement though. Several of the kids that are coming out are athletic kids. They’re going to be able to pick up the game quickly and be able to shave some strokes off."

Millbrook

Coach: Mark Manspile, 4th year.

Last year: Fifth in Conference 21 West tournament.

Key losses: Ryan McCarty, Amanda Hayton.

Top returnees: Andy Kim, Sr., Joe Eisenhauer, Sr., Connor Tavenner, Jr., Tyler Holtsclaw, Sr.

Key newcomers [for top six consideration]: Nick Varcadipane, Jr., Evan Argiro, Jr.

Manspile’s outlook: "Joe worked hard all summer long, and he’s hitting the ball well off the tee. Him and Tyler got summer jobs working at the [Winchester] Country Club, so they’ve been playing a lot of golf this summer. Everyone played a lot this summer, so I’m anxious to see how we can translate that to the next couple of months. Hopefully we’ll be peaking towards the end of the year."

Handley

Coach: David Scott, 2nd year.

Last year: Sixth in Conference 21 West tournament.

Key losses: Colleen Connolly, Nick Mitchell.

Top returnees: Gregg Burton, Jr., Maddie Neff, So., Kyle Kremer, Sr. (85 to lead the Judges at the Rock Ridge Invitational on Thursday).

Key newcomers: Braxton Duvall, Fr., Cody Williams, Fr., Brennon Smith, Fr.

Scott’s outlook: "I’m really excited with where the program’s going. We’re starting a sophomore in Maddie (who shot an 82 to lead Handley at the Licklider) and three freshmen, so we can only get better. Our golfers are pretty equivalent and are going to battle amongst themselves all year, and it will probably make all of them a lot better."

Clarke County

Coach: Jessica Zimmerman, 1st year.

Last year: Qualified for 2A East Region tournament, second in Conference 35.

Key losses: Brendan Ciaburri, Eddie O’Leary.

Top returnees: Raul Viza-Fernandez, So., Bryson Peyton, Sr., Cameron Scheib, Jr., Zach Koontz, So., Matt Betz, Sr., Dylan Vess, So.

Key newcomers: None currently in top six.

Zimmerman’s outlook: "I see a whole lot of potential in all our golfers. All of them are great athletes and are multi-sport athletes. They have a good work ethic, and they’re good people. We’ll see where it goes. I told them in our first meeting that our goal this year is improvement. Whether you’re starting at 100 or you’re starting at 75, our goal this year is just to improve."

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