After its first taste of the Licking County League in 22 years, the Johnstown-Monroe High School boys golf team came away satisfied.
The Johnnies won the LCL preseason tournament Aug. 13 at New Albany Links with a 318, six shots ahead of runner-up Granville.
The LCL has returned this year after disbanding in 1991.
"Regardless of what the other teams do, we talk about shooting around 320 because if you shoot near that, you should always be competitive," said coach Chris Carlisle, whose team tied Northridge for the MBC title last season at 9-1. "Probably what this round showed us the most is that the kids were accountable for each other. They went out and tried to stay steady and not put up big numbers."
Heath was third (333), followed by Watkins Memorial (334), Newark Catholic (347), Northridge (359), Lakewood (380), Utica (381), Licking Valley (388) and Licking Heights (438).
Sophomore John Carlisle led the Johnnies with a 74, followed by junior Kaden Welch (78), junior Steven Thiel (82), sophomore Dalton Hastings (84), senior Paul Michel (89) and freshman Brandon Estep (93).
"We all need to grind for each other this year," said John Carlisle, who was the MBC Player of the Year and a Division II district qualifier last season. "If we have a bad shot or a bad hole, we can't give up. We have to work for each other."
John Carlisle led the way with a 74 as the Johnnies won the 11-team opening Utica Invitational on Aug. 7 at The Links at Echo Springs. They shot 322 to beat runner-up Newark Catholic by four strokes.
Welch (77) was next, followed by Thiel (84), Hastings (87) and Michel (93).
In the 14-team Heath Bulldog Shootout on Aug. 9 at Burning Tree, Michel (85) had a better fifth-player score to allow the Johnnies to edge Fisher Catholic for third, as both teams shot 312 as Bexley (305) won.
John Carlisle (74) led Johns-town, followed by Hastings (78), Thiel (80) and Welch (80). Estep had a 91.
"We came out and played well on the front nine at Utica and played well enough to win," said coach Carlisle, who is in his 11th season. "Heath had a good field of teams with some tough conditions, playing in downpours and also in windy conditions. We found out that things always aren't going to be easy and we just have to play through things like that."
On Aug. 15 in the 18-team Worthington Christian Invitational at NorthStar, the Johnnies placed fifth (322) behind champion Columbus Academy (308). John Carlisle led with a 79, followed by Thiel (80), Hastings (81), Welch (82) and Michel (95).
Last year in a Division II sectional at Granville Golf Course, John Carlisle shot an 82 to advance to district as the Johnnies finished sixth (352) of 11 teams behind district-qualifiers Bexley (320), Caledonia River Valley (332) and Lakewood (347). Michel (89), Thiel (89), Welch (92) and Hastings (95) also played at sectional.
In the district tournament at Granville Golf Course, Carlisle, Bexley's Grant Murphy and Watterson's Jon Ransone all shot 75 to tie for the two individual-qualifying spots for state. Murphy and Ransone won in a playoff.
"This year, I know more of what to expect," John Carlisle said. "I've just kind of grown into my game a little better and have been more consistent than I have in the past."
Girls golf team begins third season
The girls golf team has four players, and coach Carlisle is hoping for more.
"You don't know how many you have in August because you can possibly get more when school begins," said Carlisle, who has been the only coach for the third-year program. "We have had more come out in the past (after school starts) and that could happen again."
One such player is Katie Grunkemeyer, a sophomore who came out for the team last September. The team also includes senior Laiken Valentine, sophomore Ashley Arnold and freshman Karleigh Green.
The Johnnies, who were an independent team in their first two seasons, competed in the LCL preseason tournament Aug. 15 at New Albany Links and finished sixth (364) of seven teams, behind Licking Valley (284), Granville (304), Watkins Memorial (309), Lakewood (350) and Newark Catholic (362) and ahead of Heath (374). Arnold led with a 114 and was followed by Grunkemeyer (121) and Valentine (129), as only three scores were kept for each team.The four played in the LCL preseason tournament Aug. 15 at New Albany Links. Johnstown was an independent team in its first two seasons.
"Laiken Valentine has worked to improve her game and I'm excited to see how she stacks up against the competition this season," Carlisle said. "Ashley Arnold is a third-year player and she knows what to expect and wants to see if she is up to the challenge. Katie Grunkemeyer is in her second season and has played with family in the offseason to improve her game.
"Karleigh Green is the younger sister of Adam and Cody Green, who played on our (Division III) state championship team (in 2006). Her dad (Bill Green) is a PGA pro and you can tell that from Karleigh's swing. (The LCL preseason tournament) was her first time playing an 18-hole round. It will be interesting to see her progress this year."
Last season, the Johnnies finished ninth (450) of 16 teams in the Division II sectional behind district-qualifiers Bexley (375), Centerburg (402), Licking Valley (402), Jonathan Alder (406) and Granville (408). Arnold (108), Grunkemeyer (117) and Valentine (118) competed at sectional.