Unlike the past few seasons, Upper Arlington High School boys golf coach Ron Mautz can't write his lineup in ink -- at least not yet.
The Golden Bears lost a talented 2013 class that included three of their top five players from a year ago who helped the team finish third in the Division I state tournament in 2011. Mautz is hoping increased competition among underclassmen will help UA get back to state after missing it last year.
"We must replace three starters (Matt Arnold, Will Mason and Josh Wick) with guys who haven't played varsity A golf," said Mautz, whose team finished 245-20 overall last year, including 27-1 in the OCC-Central Division to capture its first league title since 2008. "That group the past few years was so talented that they fought to take spots and won them. We have a number of new kids now, and there are going to be some battles.
"I hope they step up. It's not the easiest transition to make."
The Bears are expected to be led by juniors Seth Brenneman and Justin Wick, who consistently shot in the mid- to upper-70s last year. They are joined on the roster by senior Drew Scott and Michael Watkins, juniors Jacob Glaser, Grant Laning and Austin Seris and sophomore Jake Anderson.
"There's going to be some flexibility and some fluid situations with guys going between varsity A and varsity B," Mautz said. "Nothing's really written in stone yet."
UA opened Aug. 7 by finishing second (310) in the first round of the OCC-Central tournament at Granville Golf Course, behind Dublin Coffman (296) and ahead of Olentangy Liberty (322), Marysville (331), Thomas Worthington (332), Hilliard Davidson (336), Central Crossing (348) and Westland (467).
Anderson, Brenneman and Glaser each shot a 77 to lead the Bears.
In the 22-team Hudson Explorer Invitational on Aug. 8, Brenneman tied for second overall with a 73 as UA finished fourth (313) behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (302).
The Bears tied Liberty for second (310) in the second OCC-Central tournament Aug. 12 at Apple Valley.
According to Mautz, falling short of state isn't the primary motivator for most of his players, nor has it been discussed much. The Bears shot a 315 at district at Apple Valley last year to finish fifth of 15 teams, as New Albany (298), Coffman (300) and eventual state champion Dublin Jerome (306) advanced to state.
"For the two guys (Brenneman and Wick) who were on that team, is that motivation? Sure," Mautz said.
"But we don't talk about it a whole lot. That doesn't do much good. There's not a lot you can control in that kind of situation. You can't play harder or run faster. You can only control what you can control."
Mills expected to lead young girls golf team
It's not that girls golf coach Kristi Ghidotti expects less from her team this year.
But in the wake of losing four of its top five players from a year ago, UA will depend this season on senior Leah Mills, three sophomores and two freshmen to stay in the upper half of the OCC-Ohio and remain competitive at the district level.
"We're all young. We have only one returning varsity player," Ghidotti said. "The rest of the girls, they haven't played 18-hole competitions very much at all."
Mills was one of only eight players to break 80 in the Division I district tournament last year, shooting a 79 as UA placed fifth (354) behind state-qualifiers Coffman (314) and Jerome (314).
"She's a captain and a leader," Ghidotti said. "She showed us a lot last year. Leah's patient on the course and she's going to have a good year again."
Also on the team are sophomores Alex Dentresca, Kelli Kahle and Katie Stewart and freshmen Sophie Hemleben and Ally Rardon.
The Bears opened Aug. 6 in the 12-team Lady Rocks Invitational at Little Turtle, shooting a 425 to finish 11th behind champion Coffman (309).
UA, which placed second (24-4) in the OCC-Ohio last year behind champion Pickerington North (28-0), shot a 375 in the first round of the league tournament Aug. 7 at Turnberry to tie Thomas Worthington for third behind North (334) and Canal Winchester (366) and ahead of Gahanna (387), Davidson (403) and Lancaster (512).
Ghidotti said another positive is the addition of a second junior varsity team.
"It's the first time in my six years here that we've had three teams," she said. "We have a lot of freshmen and a lot of sophomores in this program who are excited about golf."