North sets sights on lofty ambitions
The Pickerington High School North boys golf team is coming off a season in which it won its seventh consecutive league title and had more than 200 wins.
"It wasn't a bad year at all," said 10th-year coach Casey Milligan, whose team opened Aug. 10 in the Granville Golf Preview at Granville Golf Course. "That's the most wins we've ever had in a season."
The Panthers went 212-41 overall and 28-0 in the four-round OCC-Ohio Division tournament, finishing ahead of Gahanna (22-6), Lancaster (19-9), Grove City (16-12), Pickerington Central (12-16), Reynoldsburg (9-19), Newark (6-22) and Groveport (0-28).
North competed in the opening round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 15 at Darby Creek. The second round is Tuesday, Aug. 21, at The Players Club at Foxfire.
In the 11-team Division I sectional tournament at The Players Club last year, the Panthers placed fourth (331) to secure the final district-qualifying spot. Juniors Scot Sapp and Kevin Hannah led the Panthers, each shooting 81. Junior Alex Weiss shot an 84 and 2012 graduate Kyle Thibaut followed with an 85.
The season ended for North at district at Apple Valley, as it shot 312 to take eighth, behind state-qualifiers Dublin Jerome (296), Upper Arlington (297) and Dublin Coffman (299).
"We didn't play our best that day," Milligan said. "We had a chance to play for the state championship and we let it get away from us."
Weiss shot a 1-under-par 71 to earn co-medalist honors with Coffman's Satoshi Tanka and advance to the state tournament at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
At state, Weiss shot a 168 over 18 holes to tie for 53rd, behind co-champions Ian Holt of Stow-Munroe Falls and Beau Titsworth of Cleveland St. Ignatius. Both shot 150.
North returns eight letterwinners, including its top four players from a year ago in Weiss, Sapp, Hannah and senior Garret Brickley. Thibaut, who played in the No. 5 spot, was the team's only senior last year.
"He was a solid contributor," Milligan said of Thibaut. "We've got a spot to fill, but we think we have a lot of quality people to step up to it."
Sapp is the two-time defending OCC-Ohio Player of the Year. Weiss broke a team-record score early last season by shooting a 68, only to have Sapp and Brickley beat it with a 67 on separate occasions.
Weiss, Sapp and Brickley were first-team all-league last season and Hannah was second-team all-league.
The Panthers have set their sights very high for this season. Among their goals is to break through at district and vie for the state title.
"We have very lofty goals," Milligan said. "We play to win every match. That's our primary goal. Like I told them, we'll let our play talk for ourselves."
Central looking for leadership
Central lost four of its top six players from a year ago, meaning eighth-year coach Chris Cores will be counting on the returning upperclassmen to help guide the team this season.
"I'm going to need a great deal of leadership," he said.
The Tigers, who opened Aug. 13 in the Watkins Memorial Invitational at High Lands, lost Nick Bottoms and Shane Eltzroth to graduation.
Last season, Eltzroth was honorable mention all-OCC-Ohio and shot an 80 in the Division I sectional at Darby Creek to secure the third and final district-qualifying spot. He then shot a 79 at district at Apple Valley, finishing four strokes behind the final state qualifier.
"He played really great golf for us," Cores said of Eltzroth. "He took off in the end of September."
Also gone from the lineup are two-time letterwinners Trevor McArthur, who moved out of the school district, and Nick Vandevoort, who opted to play another sport this fall.
Central, which finished 74-100 overall and fifth (12-16) in the OCC-Ohio last year, returns senior Park Lukich and junior Rodney Howell, both of whom are two-time letterwinners.
Last season, Lukich shot an 87 and Howell, who was honorable mention all-league, shot 93 at sectional, where the Tigers finished 11th (348) of 14 teams, behind district-qualifiers Coffman (296), Hilliard Davidson (317), Olentangy Liberty (323) and Big Walnut (324).
"They've been through it now," Cores said. "They've seen the OCC. They've seen the bigger invitationals. They've seen the tougher courses."
The "younger guys" include sophomores Nate Neek, Matt Katona and Andrew Sikorski. Neek is a returning letterwinner.