Boys Golf: Olentangy Orange players driving each other to winning season

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Orange’s Nathan Brown follows a tee shot during the first round of the OCC-Central tournament Aug. 12 at Turnberry. Brown averaged 76 to earn honorable mention all-league honors for the Pioneers, who won the program’s first league title.

Competition is at the forefront of everything that involves the Olentangy Orange boys golf team. 

Whether it’s on the putting green, the driving range or even video games, the five members of the Pioneers’ lineup “want to be the top dog.” 

That mentality has paid dividends for Orange, which won its first league championship by tying Liberty for the OCC-Central Division title.  

The next goal would be qualifying for the Division I state tournament. The Pioneers have not reached state since playing in Division II during their inaugural 2008 season. 

“Our competitiveness is the difference,” senior Corbin Bentley said. “We always want to be the top dog. We’re all friends but it’s all about our competitiveness. Whoever is the lowest (score for us) can win it all.” 

Bentley is one of five starters back from the Pioneers’ district lineup last fall when they finished fifth (310) behind state-qualifiers Dublin Jerome (300) and Liberty (303). Jerome went on to win its third consecutive state title and Liberty tied for fifth. 

The others are seniors Nathan Brown and Jonathan Green and juniors Luke Johnson and Mitch Perdue. 

Third-year coach Jerrod Ross said the close competitiveness comes from playing together for years. 

“The camaraderie they have makes them a special group,” he said. “Nathan, Luke and Corbin all went to Berkshire (Middle School) and played since they were in the seventh grade, and Mitch and Jonathan went to Orange (Middle School). 

“Every one of them wants to be the best on the team. Every time someone finishes last, they have to sit up in the front of the van and listen to me. That means they don’t get to wear their headphones.” 

The Pioneers entered the final round of the OCC-Central tournament Sept. 9 at Darby Creek knowing they had to finish ahead of Liberty to earn a share of the title. They won the round by three strokes (305-308), led by a 75 from Perdue and a 76 from Johnson. 

Orange and Liberty each went 18-2 in the four-round tournament. 

“We had to treat it like any other round and stick to our game plan,” Johnson said. “One of our biggest points of emphasis was playing our game and staying focused. We didn’t worry about (the Patriots) and we knew we could beat them. We had to worry about the way we played.” 

Bentley was the runner-up individually in the OCC-Central, averaging 72.67 strokes to trail only Hilliard Davidson’s Zach Burton (70.0). Bentley was first-team all-league along with Green (73.0), who was third overall. 

“We went in knowing we had to go big or go home,” Bentley said. “We were aggressive the whole day, and that worked it. When we play aggressively, we lose strokes. When we play conservatively, we gain them.” 

Johnson (74.67) was second-team all-league, and Brown (76.0) and Perdue (78.0) were honorable mention. 

The Pioneers next head to the Division I postseason, playing in a sectional Wednesday, Oct. 7, at Denison Golf Club. The top four teams and top four individuals not on those teams qualify for district Oct. 13 at Apple Valley. From there, the top two teams and the top two individuals not on those teams advance to state Oct. 23 and 24 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course. 

“Now is the time of year that you have to buckle down,” Ross said. “The season starts next week. You play all of the tournaments during the (regular) season just to play at sectional and hopefully district. 

“We chose Denison because that course will make you play to your potential. It’s probably the toughest of the three sectional courses. That should help us out if we get to the following week at Apple Valley. Denison isn’t as long as Apple Valley, but the pin placement will be tough like we expect it to be at district. We want to get the kids mentally prepared for what’s ahead.” 

shennen@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekHennen