As the high school golf season gets underway this week, a couple of area teams begin the year with a shot at history.
Charleston Catholic, winner of the last three Class A state championships and four in the last five years, has a chance to become the first team in state history to win four consecutive titles. In Class AA, Poca is on the hunt for its first golf state title in school history after finishing as the state runner-up the past four seasons.
While the Irish lost Aaron Persily, their No. 2 golfer last season, to graduation, Catholic returns a bulk of its players from last year’s championship squad. Senior Christian Casingal will retain his No. 1 position while his brother, Nick, moves into the No. 2 slot. Sophomore Cameron Blakely will play at the No. 3 position and senior Jackson Ellis will play at No. 4. Senior Allie Persily, Aaron’s younger sister, rounds out the Irish’s top five.
“That’s five pretty good ones right there,” said veteran coach Bill Gillispie. “Christian has been our number one for three years, he’ll be our leader and he’ll do a good job at that. Expectations are pretty high coming off three championships, things do change, but it looks like both the girls and guys put in a lot of work during the summer, so we’ll see.”
Not only are the Irish an experienced group, they also boast a lot of depth. Incoming freshmen Alexander Giatras and Nathan DeTemple finished first and second, respectively, in last year’s Kanawha County middle school championships and Nicole Archer won the girls division. In all, the Irish have 21 golfers this season — 11 girls and 10 boys. Gillispie says that experience and depth are his team’s biggest assets.
“Our top five players, not only have they played a lot of high school golf, they’ve all played in the state tournament,” he said. “And our top three boys have all played on the Callaway Junior Tour this summer and really haven’t taken any time off so, we expect a lot of things from those three and we expect our incoming freshman to be able to contribute in some way.”
Despite the Irish’s chance at making state and program history, Gillispie is more concerned with the success of this group of golfers.
“It’s more of a goal to get to the state tournament and play well and win a championship for this group, more so than to win four in a row,” he said. “I know it’s something that Christian and those guys would like to do for sure, but it’s more about winning a championship for this particular group.”
For Poca, the Dots return their top two players from last season in juniors Alex Hamrick and David Scragg, but coach Doug Smith is still looking to find a third and fourth threat.
“Alex and David are the strength of the team right now,” said Smith. “I don’t have that third scorer yet. I’m hoping to develop someone for that role as we head into the season.”
Hamrick, a regular on the Callaway Junior Tour this past summer, had a successful offseason. Hamrick took the 15-16 age division at the Callaway Junior Tour Playoff Series at the Greenbrier on Sunday with a 72, finally breaking through for a win after multiple second- and third-place finishes this summer.
“He’s been close all summer. He finally got through the door [Sunday],” said Smith. “He’s been playing well, so hopefully it will all start coming together as we head into the season.”
While depth is certainly a concern for the Dots, the bigger obstacle lies in defending AA champion Roane County. The Raiders bring back senior Ben Daniels and juniors Cole Moore, Cam Moore and Sierra Holcomb. Moore is coming off a solid performance in last year’s state tournament, firing a 76 on the final day.
“We gotta stand up against Roane County, who won it all last year and they have everybody back,” said Smith. “Right now, I have two kids that can play with those three, but I don’t have a third. It’s gonna be a trying year, from what I can see. But that’s high school. You can’t recruit so you have to make do with what you’ve got. It’s that simple.”
Although the Dots have their work cut out for them, Smith is still optimistic about the season and the chance to bring the first golf state title home to Poca.
“We’re gonna be OK. They’ve been at it all summer and no one’s been resting on their laurels,” he said. “I’d love to win one for the kids and the school so they can get the recognition for all their hard work. They’ve been close for three years. They deserve it.”