High School Golf Preview: James Wood showing promise

By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI | The Winchester Star

Aug 5, 2018

With the graduation of Tyler Mounts, James Wood no longer has 2017’s top golfer in Winchester/Frederick County on its roster.

But with what the Colonels have back, they might just have the best team in the entire Class 4 Northwestern District.

On Wednesday at the Curly Licklider Memorial Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, all seven district teams competed at the 22-team event that takes all six scores into account.

If only the traditional top four scores were recorded, James Wood’s 328 would have placed the Colonels only behind defending district tournament champion Kettle Run (324).

It will be a while before James Wood coach David Oates gets a complete picture of his team’s potential.

Senior Jacob Karen — whose 77 at the Licklider paced all local golfers — is on vacation and won’t be at today’s Class 4 district mini at Blue Ridge Shadows, or at the Bryan Gunter Memorial Tournament on Tuesday (at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club) and Wednesday (at Winchester Country Club). Oates said Carson Baker was only cleared to return to golf only two weeks ago after breaking his leg playing basketball and is still working his way back to top form.

But Wednesday was clearly a promising sign for the only local team to qualify for regional tournament play last year. James Wood only lost two players from its top six. At the Licklider, Karen was followed by senior John Greene — who Oates believed never broke 90 last season — who shot a 79; junior Jackson Lynch (86); and sophomore Carson Baker (86).

“I don’t think we’re going to know what we’ve really got until middle to late August,” Oates said. “Our focus is more heading into the district championships just because we won’t be at full strength the first couple of weeks.”

In the Bull Run District, Clarke County also has the personnel to make a strong run in the postseason, this despite losing Cameron Scheib to graduation. Scheib, the only local golfer to advance to state competition, was The Winchester Star Golfer of the Year in 2017.

The Eagles are a veteran group that placed second in the Bull Run District in 2017 that returns every other member of its top six and features many of the same players who helped the team qualify for regionals in 2016.

Clarke County is led by senior Zach Koontz (No. 1 in the area in stroke average last year with a 77.0, Region 2B qualifier), senior Raul Viza-Fernandez (79.0 average, tied for third in area, Region 2B qualifier in 2017, state qualifier in 2016) and senior Dylan Vess (82.0 average, sixth in area).

At the Licklider tournament, Clarke County (329 for a four-player score) finished ahead of both defending Bull Run District regular-season champion Central (376) and defending Bull Run tournament champion Strasburg (335).

Clarke County — which next plays on Tuesday against Madison County at Greene Hills Country Club in Stanardsville — has a new head coach in Tucker Brown, a former Shenandoah University baseball player whose playing career ended in 2012. He takes over for Jessica Zimmerman, who guided the Eagles the previous two years.

Sherando also is undergoing a coaching transition because Rob Wright — the coach for the last 17 years — is on medical leave. Warriors swimming coach Joe Knight, who has some familiarity with how Wright operated the program because his son Joshua played golf for the Warriors before graduating in 2016, is coaching the team this season.

Sherando is led by senior Brandon Nice, who was seventh among area golfers in stroke average last year (84.5). Nice, who fired a 78, was second only to Karen among local golfers at the Licklider. Nice also tied for third at the 11-school Rock Ridge-Freedom Invitational at South Riding Golf Club, shooting a 37 in a competition abbreviated by rain. Junior Caleb Dotson (85 at the Licklider, 39 at South Riding) is also coming off a strong 2017 season.

Maddi Neff is again one of the Handley’s top golfers and has led her team in both of its events (85 at the Licklider, 42 at South Riding) and Millbrook will look to sophomore Tyler McGuire, who missed the Licklider, to lead this year’s team.

The following is a glance at each area team:

James Wood

Coach: David Oates, sixth year.

Last year: Third in the Class 4 Northwestern District tournament; sixth in Region 4C.

Key losses: Tyler Mounts, Logan Harper.

Top returnees: Cameron Baker, Sr.; Carson Baker, So.; John Greene, Sr.; Drew Johnson, Jr.; Jacob Karen, Sr.; Jackson Lynch, Jr.

Top newcomers: Luke Davis, Fr.; Hunter Rowe, Jr.

Oates’ outlook: “Our goal is to get our scoring average a little bit lower than it was last year. Two years ago it was atrocious and we improved [by 25 shots] last year. We want to try and get back to regionals. I know it’s going to be tough, but that’s our main focus.”

Sherando

Coach: Joe Knight, 1st year (interim coach).

Last year: Fourth in the Class 4 Northwestern District tournament.

Key losses: Ryan Judy, Evan Simmons.

Top returnees: Brandon Nice, Sr.; Caleb Dotson, Jr.; Parker Gregg, Jr.; Ian Ames, Jr.; Gavin Eanes, Sr.

Top newcomers: Scott Curtis, Jr.; Hunter Estep, Sr.

Knight’s outlook: “Certainly we’re all concerned about Rob and his well-being, and his welfare. We wish him the best. I haven’t had a lot of time to be with the team, but the little bit I have been with them, they just seem to be an excellent bunch of kids. They’re all coachable. I don’t expect to change very much from what Coach Wright has established in the past. I’m just trying to help them do the very best we can.”

Handley

Coach: Troy Mezzatesta, second year.

Last year: Fifth in the Class 4 Northwestern District tournament.

Key losses: Gregg Burton, Andrew McIntyre.

Top returnees: Maddi Neff, Sr.; Brennan Smith, Jr.; Cody Williams, Jr.; Braxton Duvall, Jr.; Catherine Burton, Sr.

Top newcomers: Jack Thome, Fr.; Bobby Kaniecki, So.

Mezzatesta’s outlook: “We have the potential to be as good as we want to be, but our attitude on the golf course has to match that. When they’re having fun and playing passionate, hungry golf, they can go out and really play well. They’re working hard and they’ve put in the time, and they certainly have a big upside to them I think.”

Millbrook

Coach: Mark Manspile, sixth year.

Last year: Seventh in the Class 4 Northwestern District tournament.

Key losses: Nick Varcadipane, Evan Argiro, Connor Tavenner.

Top returnees: Tyler McGuire, So.; Austin Allamong, So.; David Allamong, Jr.

Top newcomers (for top six consideration): Patrick Ellis, Jr.; Jack Hayton, Sr.; (played as a freshman); Jack Hersey, Fr.; Nick Gressley, Fr.

Manspile’s outlook: “We’ve got a nice group, a lot of kids willing to work hard. With Tyler, confidence level is a big thing. Last year he was a freshman, so having that one year of experience, going into each match he kind of knows what to expect now. I don’t think the stage will ever be too big for him. As a freshman things can get a little overwhelming, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year.”

Clarke County

Coach: Tucker Brown, first year.

Last year: Second in the Bull Run District tournament.

Key loss: Cameron Scheib.

Top returnees: Zach Koontz, Sr.; Raul Viza-Fernandez, Sr.; Dylan Vess, Sr.; Trae Lambert, Sr.; Jackson Wolford, Jr; Matt Williams, Jr.

Top newcomers: Seth Hicks, Sr.; Patrick Russman, Fr.

Brown’s outlook: “The senior leadership we’ve got here is solid. The kids get along well. The kids that are new to the high school and new to the program, the older guys have really taken to them. There’s no separation from seniors to freshmen. We think we can challenge for a region berth, maybe even a state berth. These guys are going to compete, and they’re going to have a good time doing it, which is important.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1

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