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It is not often when a high school sports team loses three of its top five players off a team that went 16-3 in dual meets and won two tournaments can actually feel the following year can be another banner season.
But welcome to Anderson County boys’ golf, where fourth-year coach Will Carlton says, “We can be better than last year.”
The Bearcats lost Colin Bussell, now playing at Transylvania University, Graham Young and Jade Martin. But Carlton has reason for optimism as his top golfers at last year’s regional meet return along with another that has played very strong in the past.
“Our top three are as good as anybody’s top three,” Carlton says. “It only takes four.”
Junior Joseph White advanced to the state tournament last fall and classmate Jacob Flora just missed. Another junior, Marcus Lake, has played strong in the past and had had some phenomenal rounds in pre-season practice.
White might have caught his opponents off guard. “He was relatively unknown,” Carlton says. “He's palyed very well this summer. He got invited to the Tournament of Champions on the Pepsi tour.”
Flora missed the state by two shots and has also been strong heading into the season.
“They should be No. 1 and No. 2 all year,” Carlton says. “Both are very consistent and very accurate and both have some pop in their drives.”
Another junior, Marcus Lake, played in the regional tournament two years ago, but was Anderson's sixth golfer at the end of the season last year. “He was playing real well, but then he changed his swing during the season last year. He's got it fixed now,” Carlton says. “Marcus is ready to go. He's been playing great all spring and summer. He's been in the 60s (for 18 holes) several times.
“The top three have been there and all are very consistent. We have just got to find one guy to go with them. I think it is Dylan Riley.”
Riley, a senior, played mostly on the junior varsity last fall, but Carlton says his ability is considerable. “Dylan Riley is the key,” Carlton says. “Our season rides on him and I told him that. If he takes it seriously, he can be as good as our top three and carry us to the state. He has the ability to be on fire.”
Carlton has 18 players on the team but says many are learning the game. Those with a shot at seeing varsity action include senior Nick Parrish, junior Cory Case and sophomores Darren Laswell and Clay Guffey.
Carlton says West Jessamine is the team to beat in the region, but he says the Bearcats will fight it out with Taylor County, Boyle County and Danville for the second state berth from the region.
A year ago, Anderson was so close to a team berth in the state tournament. Some did not have a good day at the region and if each Bearcat had shaved two strokes off his score, the team would have joined White in Bowling Green for the state.
“We had a banner year last year,” Carlton says. “It was one of the best years ever. The way we finished doesn't diminish the whole year.”
This year, Carlton is reminding his team of its goal every day. The word “State” is prominent on the team schedule and he says the schedule is made to get the team ready for a trip to Bowling Green. The Anderson team has not qualified since 1994.
“Last year, after Joseph played in the state, he said he would much rather have had the whole team there,” Carlton says.
It could very well happen in 2009.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.