With two sons who play lacrosse, Kaiya Wheat enjoyed serving as an assistant for the first time with the Olentangy Liberty Middle School boys program last spring.
She's taking on a new venture this fall as the Liberty High School girls golf coach, but she sees it more as an extension of her skills.
Wheat played for the Ohio State women's team in the early 1990s.
"I played golf in college and had a wonderful coach in Therese Hession," the 1995 Ohio State graduate said. "I'm excited to be able to follow in her coaching footsteps."
Liberty finished second (370) behind Dublin Jerome (305) in the first round of the OCC-Cardinal Division tournament Aug. 7 at The Links at Groveport. The Patriots went 20-4 in the league last season, second behind the eventual state-champion Celtics (24-0).
Wheat's first team returns two varsity regulars from a year ago in seniors Hannah Flees and Rachel Marks. Flees shot a team-best 89 and Marks carded 93 as the Patriots placed second (368) in last year's Division I sectional at The Links at Groveport behind Pickerington North (341).
Marks then led the Patriots with an 86 while Flees shot 90 in the district tournament at Cooks Creek as Liberty was seventh (374) of nine teams behind champion Dublin Coffman (314).
Senior Amy Atkinson, junior Olivia Dunning and sophomore Reilly Haas also are key players after being in the program last season.
Freshmen Camryn Calus and Meagan Ruddock are others looking to contribute.
Liberty opened Aug. 6 by finishing 10th (400) in the 12-team Lady Rocks Invitational at Little Turtle behind champion Coffman (309). On Aug. 8, the Patriots were sixth (334) in the 17-team Worthington Kilbourne Invitational at Glenross behind champion Jerome (283).
Liberty was scheduled to compete Aug. 9 in the Olentangy Classic at Oakhaven, but the event was canceled shortly after it started because of bad weather.
Wheat took over for Chelsea Ross, who led the program for six seasons.
"It's difficult because we've only been together a short time, and there's a learning curve to see how I can assist them," Wheat said. "The girls are really easygoing and really seem to love golf. The biggest goal is to develop a love for golf and try to put shots and rounds in perspective."
Braves building around Dencer
Olentangy has a pair of freshmen among its key players, but two of its top five from last season are back, including senior Taylor Dencer.
Last season, Dencer shot an 86 in the 10-team sectional at Oakhaven to advance to district individually as the Braves settled for fourth (398) behind champion Jerome (323).
Dencer then shot 108 at district.
Junior Anne Kim also is back after being a regular last season.
"In our league we just want to go out and compete, and if we could finish second in the league, that would be good," coach John Feasel said. "We're in the same league as the two-time defending state champions (Jerome) so I told the girls, 'Don't even watch what their girls are doing.' Let's try to beat Liberty, (Dublin) Scioto and Orange and see if we could get second place."
Freshmen Kara Raines and Alex Cardi are both among the team's top five players. Senior Stephanie Berry and juniors Amanda Chirico and Brooke Stinette are others looking to contribute.
The Braves, who were fourth (12-12) in the league last season, opened OCC-Cardinal action by finishing third (389) on Aug. 7.
On Aug. 8 in the Kilbourne Invitational, Olentangy was ninth (359).
"Dencer is a three-year letterwinner and is one of the best scorers," Feasel said. "I played her at No. 2 last year. I think Kara Raines is going to be pretty good."
Pioneers have new look
Orange also has a new coach after Kari DeAngelis took over in the offseason. She replaced Karen Cross, who led the team last fall.
The only player with significant experience is senior Rachel Ramsey, who shot 106 in the sectional at Oakhaven last season as Orange finished fifth (406).
Brittany Stevens, who advanced to district individually by shooting 89 at sectional, was one of three 2013 graduates and four players overall who are not back with the program.
In the first round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 7, Orange placed seventh (432). The Pioneers finished third in the league a year ago at 16-8.
"They're all really funny girls and nice girls, so it's been great so far," said DeAngelis, who played at the University of Dayton and had been the Worthington middle school club coach the last two seasons. "It's exciting to have practices with them."
Senior Mary O'Brien, juniors Madison Lindeman and Kennedy Willis and freshman Brittany Miller are others in the lineup. Senior Marisa Greywitt and junior Nichole Enneking also are looking to contribute.
"We definitely need to work on our short game and putting, which is tough," DeAngelis said. "A lot of people hate practicing putting, but that's where you can take off strokes. The biggest thing is just improving our scores and seeing individual improvement in the girls."