Justin Arens has made his case for becoming new Westerville South High School boys golf coach K.C. Murphy's best friend.
Murphy replaced Dave Haney in early July, days after wife Bridget gave birth to their first child, a daughter. Murphy spent the next few weeks balancing fatherhood and getting to know his new players.
Once August rolled around, Arens helped Murphy and the Wildcats into the season with consecutive rounds of 70. Arens, a senior, was medalist in the season-opening Mount Vernon Invitational on Aug. 6 at Mount Vernon Country Club, then lost a scorecard playoff to Dublin Jerome's J.D. Fletcher the next day in the first OCC-Cardinal Division tournament at Turnberry.
Arens also has helped Murphy remember the locations of a few tournaments and even the names of a couple golfers.
"It's been quite a month," said Murphy, who also coached South's girls team from 2006-09. "I've known Justin for years because he used to play baseball (which Murphy coaches at South), so I've known him the whole time he's been in school. The other guys, I've pretty much just met."
Murphy certainly liked how the season started. South shot 338 at Mount Vernon to finish 14th of 18 teams behind champion Pickerington North (300) and was third (322) behind champion Jerome (292) at Turnberry as it sought to improve on last year's 12-16 league record.
Sophomore Matt Hoffman added a 79 in the league tournament, ahead of classmate Jared Hrabcak (83).
In the second OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 12 at Granville Golf Course, South was fifth (342) behind champion Jerome (299).
The lineup is more fluid beyond the top three. The fourth and fifth spots will be taken by a combination of senior Nick Cafaro, junior Austin Maurice and freshman Jacob Cotik.
"We're young and we know what we can accomplish," said Arens, who averaged 73.4 per 18 holes last year and is being recruited by Akron, Austin Peay, Toledo and Youngstown State. "(Hoffman and Hrabcak), their mental games are incredible. They don't get down on themselves if they don't play well. And they're very good at their short games."
Arens shot 82 in a Division I sectional tournament last year at The Players Club at Foxfire to lead South, which shot a 344 and placed seventh behind district-qualifiers New Albany (298), Jerome (305), Teays Valley (313) and Olentangy (323).
"It's a great time for a lot of 18-hole matches," Murphy said. "It's great preparation for the rest of the year (and) good conditioning. It's also good having these guys compete for spots in matches."
New Warhawks coach boosts expectations
First-year Central coach Kyle Baker took a look at his team's score sheet after the first OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 7 and wasn't thrilled.
Senior Jacob English shot a 72 and junior Austin Kondratick had a 77 as the Warhawks shot 317 and finished second, but Baker already was well into his approach of emphasizing the little things in hopes of achieving greater glory later in the season.
"Right now, we just throw away too many shots," said Baker, the Warhawks' j.v. coach the past four years who replaced three-year coach John Longo in May. "In our first tournament (the Mount Vernon Invitational), we had 22 three-putts as a team and that's where you score. We're talking about that and showing them you score around the green. It's not about how far you hit the ball. We could be a very, very competitive team in any event. I'm looking forward to seeing us grow over the next two months."
Kondratick shot a 76 at Mount Vernon to pace Central, which placed 11th (327).
In the second OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 12, English was medalist with a 70 as the Warhawks finished second (315).
The rest of the roster consists of senior Eric Briggs, junior Buck Carson and freshman
Jack Funderburg. Only Nick Erlenbach graduated from last year's team, which went 21-7 in the OCC-Cardinal.
"We have an experienced senior (English) and I feel like he's going to lead our group," Baker said. "Austin's right behind him and he's a junior who plays like a senior. Those two guys are going to lead our group and hopefully help the three guys behind them. We're still looking for a third and fourth score, but I think for this team ... the sky's the limit."
Warriors hoping to build with youth
In terms of personnel, the season didn't start like second-year North coach Bob Markin planned.
The Warriors graduated four golfers from last year's team that went 23-5 in the OCC-Cardinal, second to Jerome (28-0), but Markin said promising junior Kyle Mondlak is unsure whether he will play or skip the season to focus on academics. North began the season Aug. 6 in the Thomas Worthington Cardinal Invitational at York with six freshmen and a sophomore, tying Lancaster for sixth (345) of eight teams behind champion Olentangy (323).
Comprising the varsity roster are sophomore Spencer Jordan and freshmen Justin Evans, David Fratianne, Quinn Gray, Ryan Parnell, Gavin Perkins and Malik Sammons.
"We had a team meeting (Aug. 5) and I told the guys I believe in the team this year just as much as the one last year when we had four seniors," Markin said.
Sammons shot 1-under par 71 during a practice round at Turnberry in late July, clinching a spot in the top five with Jordan, Parnell, Evans and Fratianne.
"(Sammons) wasn't going up against Dublin Jerome or Pickerington North, but that's a good round no matter what," Markin said. "I've told the guys we respect everyone we play, but don't fear them."
North was fifth (338) in the first OCC-Cardinal tournament and 11th (353) of 14 teams in the Granville Shoot Out on Aug. 8 at Granville Golf Course behind champion Granville Blue (300).
The Warriors were seventh (376) in the second league tournament.
Last year, North was third (320) in a Division I sectional Darby Creek, earning a district berth with champion Dublin Coffman (303), Olentangy Liberty (312) and Hilliard Davidson (323). The Warriors were paced by 2013 graduate Will Vosler, who shot 76.
Vosler shot 80 at district, in which North finished 10th (341) as New Albany (298), Coffman (300) and Jerome (306) advanced to state.
"That team did some good things, but I really would put (this year's team) up against last year's guys on any given day," Markin said. "These guys have a lot of talent in them. It might take some time to develop more, but it's there."