If last season was any indication, a strong performance in the OCC-Central Division might signal greater success for the Upper Arlington High School boys golf team.
Five of the 12 teams that participated in the Division I district tournament a year ago were from the OCC-Central, including UA. The Golden Bears shot a 315 to finish sixth, as Dublin Jerome (299), Pickerington North (305) and New Albany (308) advanced to state.
With six letterwinners having returned, fifth-year coach Ron Mautz hopes the Bears can make their first state appearance as a team since 2011.
"Central Ohio has the best golf in the state, and we can't wait to get going," Mautz said. "We're in one heck of a golf division in the OCC, and it's a situation where you find out what you're made of pretty quickly."
Seniors Seth Brenneman and Justin Wick, who are two- and three-year letterwinners, respectively, return to lead UA, which has won an Ohio-record 16 state titles, with its last championship coming in 2006.
Wick led the Bears with a 75.5 average last year, just ahead of Brenneman (76.7).
Also on the team are seniors Jacob Glaser, Grant Laning, Austin Serif and Bo Zink.
According to Mautz, other players who could see action on the varsity A or B teams include juniors Jake Anderson, Will Dunn and Torao Yasunaga, sophomores Andy Hummer and Alan Kim and freshman Will Grabovac.
Brenneman, Serif and Wick are co-captains. Dunn is a transfer from St. Charles who will have to sit out the first half of the season under the Ohio High School Athletic Association's transfer rules.
Asked if Brenneman and Wick had shown improvement or whether the rest of the team had closed the gap, Mautz chuckled.
"Yes and yes," he said. "(Brenneman and Wick) are still our top two, but the other guys have closed in on them. They're shooting lower, too. I'll footnote that by saying that's from summer golf. Once school starts, everything changes. They'll have been going all day with classes and homework.
"Individually and collectively, all of them have gotten better. We've had some outstanding classes come through here, and I think this one could be right up there."
UA opened Aug. 7, shooting a 312 in the first round of the OCC-Central tournament at Clover Valley to place second behind Olentangy Liberty (310). Dublin Coffman (317) was third, followed by Hilliard Davidson (323), Marysville (329), Central Crossing (341), Thomas Worthington (347) and Westland (429).
Coffman, Davidson, Liberty and Thomas were district qualifiers last year.
Brenneman led UA with a 72, followed by Glaser (80), Serif (80), Yasunaga (83) and Zink (84). According to Mautz, Wick missed the opening round because he was playing in an out-of-state tournament, but was expected to rejoin the team earlier this week.
UA (289) won the second round Aug. 11 at Turnberry, ahead of runner-up Coffman (303). Serif was medalist with a 68.
The Bears went 23-5 in the OCC-Central last year, placing second behind Coffman (28-0).
Girls golf coach likes team's experience
Kristi Ghidotti admits that she has no idea what to expect from the girls golf team, which has no seniors.
But because four of her top five players from last year have returned, the seventh-year coach already has been able to talk about the sport on a deeper level, including matters such as course management.
"I am thrilled that, for the most, we are very experienced. They're not as nervous as last year," Ghidotti said. "We can do more course management. We can study courses. If you have a young team, they usually look at you puzzled when you analyze a course. I'm excited that this team is taking more of an analytical approach."
The roster consists of juniors Ailsa Heckscher, Kelli Kahle and Alex Ventresca and sophomores Riley Carpenter, Sophia Hemleben and Ally Rardon.
UA opened Aug. 6 with the first round of the OCC-Ohio tournament at Royal American Links.
Ventresca had an eagle and finished with an 84 to lead the Bears, who finished second (370) behind Pickerington North (337) and ahead of Canal Winchester (396), Gahanna (401), Davidson (420), Thomas (448) and Lancaster (455).
Heckscher and Kahle both shot a 94, followed by Hemleben (98) and Carpenter (104).
The second round was Aug. 12 at Mentel Memorial.
"Alex plays a controlled type of game," Ghidotti said. "She keeps herself calm and goes conservative when she has to. She knows when to use a 3-wood instead of a driver. All our girls' scores are going to come down as they get even more comfortable."
Last season, UA placed third (18-10) in the OCC-Ohio behind Pickerington North (28-0) and Thomas (20-8), finished second (352) in the 11-team Division I sectional at Westchester behind Pickerington North (338) and finished ninth (392) at district at The Links at Groveport behind state-qualifiers Coffman (300) and Jerome (308).
Aug. 7 -- OCC-Central at Clover Valley
Aug. 9 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier Invitational at Maketewah
Aug. 11 -- OCC-Central at Turnberry
Aug. 12 -- Dublin Invitational at Golf Club of Dublin
Aug. 14 -- Centerville Elk Invitational at Yankee Trace
Aug. 16 -- Cincinnati Sycamore Invitational at Blue Ash
Aug. 19 -- New Albany Invitational at Winding Hollow
Aug. 23 -- Cincinnati Moeller Invitational at Walden Pond
Aug. 27 -- OCC-Central at Darby Creek
Aug. 30 -- Pinnacle Classic at Pinnacle
Aug. 31 -- Muirfield Village Invitational at Muirfield Village
Sept. 6 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 8 -- Wooster Invitational at Wooster Country Club
Sept. 10 -- OCC-Central at Apple Valley
Sept. 13 -- Upper Arlington Invitational at Scioto Country Club
Sept. 20 -- Trojan Invitational at Findlay Country Club
Sept. 27 -- St. Charles and Wellington at Scioto Country Club
Oct. 4 -- Dublin Jerome Honorary Invitational at Riviera
Aug. 6 -- OCC-Ohio at Royal American Links
Aug. 7 -- Lady Rocks Invitational at Little Turtle
Aug. 8 -- Panther Invitational at Turnberry
Aug. 11 -- Gahanna Invitational at Jefferson Country Club
Aug. 12 -- OCC-Ohio at Mentel Memorial
Aug. 13 -- North Union at Mill Creek
Aug. 23 -- Midwest Classic at Skyland Pines
Aug. 26 -- OCC-Ohio at The Links at Groveport
Aug. 30 -- Lima Central Catholic Invitational at Hawthorne Hill Country Club
Sept. 3 -- Dublin Jerome and Pickerington North at Turnberry
Sept. 6 -- Bexley Invitational at Blacklick Woods
Sept. 9 -- OCC-Ohio at Westchester
Sept. 15 -- Marysville and Pickerington North at Turnberry
Sept. 16 -- Canal Winchester, Gahanna and Watterson at Royal American Links
Sept. 20 -- OSU Bye Day Classic at Mentel Memorial
Sept. 25 -- Gahanna at The Links at Groveport
Sept. 27 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek
Oct. 4 -- Pickerington North Fall Classic at The Links at Groveport