Three starters back for boys golf team
The numbers continue to grow for the Northridge High School boys golf team a season after the Vikings won the program's first league title.
Northridge returns three starters -- senior Austin Bilderback, junior Ethan Doon and junior Matt Simmons -- from the team that tied Johnstown-Monroe for the MBC title last fall at 9-1.
The MBC dissolved after the 2012-13 school year and the Vikings have joined the Licking County League.
"We have 16 kids out," said coach Tony Bilderback, who is in his third season. "We had something like seven kids when I started and the numbers have grown every year. My goal is to keep the program growing and when the kids see the success that we had last year, they want to be a part of that."
The Vikings opened LCL play with the league's preseason tournament Aug. 13 at New Albany Links. They finished sixth (359) behind Johnstown (318), Granville (324), Heath (333), Watkins Memorial (334) and Newark Catholic (347) and ahead of Lakewood (380), Utica (381), Licking Valley (388) and Licking Heights (438).
Simmons led Northridge with an 81, followed by Austin Bilderback (83), Doon (90), junior Nick McConnell (105), freshman Chris George (110) and freshman Joel Hale (134).
"I was very happy with the way we played because that was pretty much our first match and it was on a pretty tough course," coach Bilderback said. "We had the (Hartford) Fair (from Aug. 5-10) and even though we played at (the) Utica (Invitational on Aug. 7 at The Links at Echo Springs), we were more in fair mode than in competition mode. That (LCL event) was our first real (tournament) of the season."
In the Utica Invitational, the Vikings finished sixth (361) of 11 teams behind champion Johnstown (322). Simmons led Northridge with a 78, followed by Doon (87), Austin Bilderback (95) and George (101).
The Vikings play in the Gahanna Invitational on Monday, Aug. 19, at Little Turtle before opening LCL dual competition Tuesday, Aug. 20, against Johnstown at Clover Valley.
Northridge and Johnstown both have Clover Valley as a home course this season.
Also in the varsity mix is senior Jesse Kanavel.
"We have a big group of kids to work with and we're able to do a lot more individual work this season," coach Bilderback said.
"The returning guys are doing a great job of helping out. They know the drills we do for putting and chipping and have been helping out with the younger, inexperienced players and showing them what to do."
In the Division II district tournament last year at Granville Golf Course, Simmons shot an 84 and failed to advance to state by nine strokes. He shot an 83 in the sectional at The Players Club at Foxfire and was one of three players to advance to district individually.
"Playing (at district) has been a big help," Simmons said. "It's given me a lot of confidence in my game and I know I can play with that kind of competition."
The Vikings finished sixth of 11 teams at sectional with a 367, edging Heath on a scorecard playoff as Watterson (312), Hartley (324) and London (358) advanced to district. Doon shot a 98 to beat Heath's fifth player, who had a 107. Austin Bilderback (94) also played at sectional.