The fast start for the Big Walnut boys golf team looks very familiar.
Like last season, the Golden Eagles had strong showings in the first two rounds of the four-round OCC-Capital Division tournament, finishing second (319) behind defending champion New Albany (313) on Aug. 12 at Darby Creek and runner-up (327) to the Eagles (311) on Aug. 6 at Denison Golf Club.
Second-year coach Charlie Brodhead likes what he sees but knows his group will need to shave even more strokes if it wants to advance to the Division I district tournament in October.
Big Walnut closed last season with an eighth-place finish (333) in a 13-team sectional at Darby Creek behind champion Dublin Coffman (300). Upper Arlington (315) earned the fourth and final district-qualifying spot.
"We've got to continue to get better," Brodhead said. "Our goal isn't so much about the OCC, it's qualifying at sectional. We did well in our first five tournaments last year, but we've got to continue that through the rest of the year."
The Golden Eagles return an experienced group that consists of four seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. Each has shot in the 70s, according to Brodhead.
"It's just a matter of putting it together on an OCC course," Brodhead said.
Senior Kyle Williams led Big Walnut at Darby Creek with a 71, followed by sophomore Kolin McKee (81), senior Kenny Schneider (82), junior Austen Bennett (85) and senior Reno Overbaugh (86).
At Denison Golf Club, Williams carded a 77, followed by Bennett (82), Overbaugh and Schneider (both 84) and McKee (87).
"I think in that second match, we had two guys triple (bogey), and those are the things that can put you out of it," Brodhead said. "Denison just eats us up. We just don't play well there."
Senior Tyler Garner and junior Blake Shade also are looking to contribute for Big Walnut, which opened Aug. 5 by finishing third (315) in the 17-team Pickerington Central Invitational at Turnberry behind champion Olentangy Berlin (305).
Overbaugh and McKee both shot 77 to lead the Golden Eagles and Williams carded a 79.
On Aug. 10, Big Walnut shot a 331 to finish runner-up to Bexley (327) in the 19-team Bloom-Carroll Invitational at Pine Hill.
Girls golfers look to gain experience
Lloyd Huffer, the third coach of the girls golf team in its four-year history, must mold an inexperienced group of mostly first-time golfers.
"We kept a varsity and a junior varsity team, and in total, we have 18 players," said Huffer, a 1982 Big Walnut graduate who replaced Rio Watanabe, who guided the Golden Eagles for one season. "Only five of those girls have played competitively before, but their swings look good, they're athletic and the desire is there."
Big Walnut shot a 434 in the second round of the four-round OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 14 at Royal American to finish fifth behind first-place Grove City (356).
Senior Jenna Allen and sophomore Emma Doty each shot a 100, followed by sophomore Sam Sellers (112), senior Emily Kuederle (122) and junior Kat Brehm (132).
In the first round Aug. 7 at Blacklick, the Golden Eagles shot a 429 to finish fifth behind first-place Gahanna (351) and were led by Allen (94). Also scoring were Doty (107), Kuederle and Sellers (both 114) and junior Audrey Hofer (124).
"For the most part, (Allen) avoids those really bad holes," Huffer said. "She's not always perfect off the tee and doesn't make all of her putts all the time, but she very seldom strings two or three bad shots together."
Girls tennis players learning new roles
Ninth-year girls tennis coach Ryan Balaz expects this team to be playing its best when the postseason begins in October.
Right now, however, some players are settling into new roles in the lineup.
"The girls have gotten a lot better since last season," Balaz said. "They're all playing at a higher level, but some are playing at different spots and learning to play those spots."
Among those players are junior Avery Wagner, who played third singles last season but is now paired with junior Ciara Matos at second doubles, and sophomore Kina Ehlers, who did not have a starting role at the beginning of last season but is now at first singles.
Ehlers replaces 2019 graduate Lindsay Hill, who went 2-1 in a Division I sectional last season at Pickerington Central, falling one win shy of advancing to the district tournament.
Junior Lindsey Stevens returns at second singles, sophomores Karen Ambrose and Addy Smith are paired at first doubles and sophomore Abby Crandell and freshman Maddy Moroz are vying for playing time at third singles.
Balaz said senior Allyson Stevens and freshman Molly McLane also will see playing time.
The Golden Eagles opened Aug. 9 with a 3-2 loss to visiting Marion Harding and were 0-2 before playing Olentangy on Aug. 15.
"We're learning what it takes to be successful against good competition and be consistent throughout the entire match," said Balaz, whose team begins OCC-Capital play Thursday, Aug. 22, at Canal Winchester. "But these girls have a ton of potential based on how they've improved. It will be great to see what kind of tennis they're playing in October."
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Hartford Invitational at Hartford Fairgrounds
Aug. 19 -- Buckeye Valley at Royal American
Aug. 21 -- DeSales at Royal American
Aug. 20 -- Licking Valley at The Virtues
Aug. 22 -- Westerville South at Bent Tree
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Lexington
Aug. 22 -- At Westerville North
Aug. 19 -- At Mount Vernon
Aug. 20 -- Home vs. Marysville
*Aug. 22 -- At Canal Winchester
Aug. 24 -- Watkins Memorial Doubles Tournament at Reynoldsburg
Aug. 20 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
Aug. 22 -- At Westerville Central
Aug. 24 -- At Sparta Highland