Boys Golf: Deep lineup boosts Olentangy Orange's confidence

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Luke Johnson, a junior who was second-team all-league last season, is expected to be among the key contributors for the Orange boys golf team.

Third-year coach Jerrod Ross has high expectations for his Olentangy Orange boys golf team, and with good reason.

The Pioneers return all five players from last year's lineup, which led Orange to second place (17-3) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind Liberty (19-1) before narrowly missing a berth in the Division I state tournament.

Seniors Corbin Bentley (first-team all-league) and Nathan Brown (honorable mention all-league) both shot 74 at district at Apple Valley as the Pioneers placed fifth (310) behind state-qualifiers Dublin Jerome (300) and Liberty (303).

Also competing at district were senior Jonathan Green (80; second-team all-league) and juniors Mitch Perdue (82; honorable mention all-league) and Luke Johnson (90; second-team all-league).

"We don't have (a playing) order for them," Ross said. "These guys will move around from (Nos.) 1-5 all year. We'll see a lot of the same teams, and we'll rotate them through to see how they fill each position."

Bentley was the Central Ohio Golf Academy's Player of the Year for ages 16-18 this summer.

"From last year to this year, it has been a big improvement for everyone," Bentley said. "Everyone is at least two or three shots better than last year, so we have a good shot at (qualifying for) state.

"We're all pretty competitive. We like competing with each other and fighting for that No. 1 spot."

Orange opened by finishing fourth (312) in the Liberty Preview on Aug. 5 at Delaware Golf Club behind champion St. Charles (300). Bentley led with a 73, one shot behind medalist Luke Gutman of St. Charles.

The Pioneers now compete in the OCC-Central. They opened league play Aug. 6 at Denison Golf Club and finished second (308) behind Liberty (296) and ahead of Dublin Coffman (321), Upper Arlington (329), Hilliard Davidson (333) and Hilliard Bradley (334).

Johnson led Orange with a 76. Bentley and Green both shot 77, followed by Brown and Perdue with 78 apiece.

The second round of league play was Aug. 12 at Turnberry. The third round is Aug. 26 at Apple Valley and the final round is Sept. 9 at Darby Creek.

"I think all five of our guys know how well they can play," Ross said. "We just need to get into tournaments and show that we can play well. We just need to perform. We know we can do well in tryouts, but you have to put up good scores against the top teams in the area."

Patriots return veteran lineup

Having an experienced lineup comforts 17th-year Liberty coach Ryan Snivley.

The Patriots have returned all but one of their key players from last season, when they shot 637 in the Division I state tournament to tie Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cleveland St. Ignatius for fifth behind champion Jerome (607).

"I look forward to the experience with the five guys that are on varsity right now," Snivley said. "The five of the six players we had last year are back, so it's pretty much the same lineup we had. We have the experience. They know what it takes and the work ethic is there. It's just kind of fine-tuning things and finding the groove."

Senior Grant Smeltzer led the Patriots at state with a 158 that tied him for 22nd. Senior Andrew Blosser tied for 25th (159).

Another senior who was expected to be a key returnee, Hunter Corbin, moved out of state.

The others who return after competing at state are juniors Jack O'Donnell and Ben Armbruster.

Junior Jack Snyder was a part-time contributor who has moved into the lineup.

Liberty went 19-1 in the OCC-Buckeye last season to win its second consecutive league title but has moved to the OCC-Central.

In the first round of the league tournament Aug. 6 at Denison Golf Club, the Patriots shot 296 to finish first.

Blosser shot 70, Smeltzer and Snyder each carded 75 and Armbruster and O'Donnell both shot 76. Blosser was medalist.

Smeltzer was the OCC-Buckeye runner-up medalist last season with a 73.25 average and earned first-team all-league honors. Armbruster and Blosser were second-team all-league.

-- Jarrod Ulrey

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Strong nucleus to steady Bears

Berlin expects to find success this season with the help of three returnees, including Division I district Player of the Year Bryce Reed, who had a 72.9 average last fall.

The senior also was OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year with a 70.75 average, as the Bears placed second (22-6) behind Jerome (27-1).

Third-year coach Andrew Fraley said Reed had a busy offseason schedule, as did senior Ethan Hegg, junior Brady Casto and sophomore Kyle Smetiouk.

"We have a really good top two with Bryce, who can shoot under par, and Brady playing near par," Fraley said. "Ethan and Kyle are also close, and they all played a lot in the offseason to get better."

Senior Caleb Haaser, junior Mark Erwine and sophomore Drew Mark round out the top seven.

Reed, a Kent State recruit, started the season by earning medalist honors with a 66 in the Pickerington Central Tiger Invitational on Aug. 5 at Turnberry. The Bears (300) were runners-up to the host Tigers (298).

One day later, Berlin was runner-up (312) to Jerome (296) in the first round of the four-round OCC-Cardinal tournament at Turnberry. Marysville (344), Olentangy (356) and Hilliard Darby (359) followed.

Hegg led the Bears, tying Jerome's Ethan McDonald for medalist honors with a 72. Reed (76), Casto (78), Smetiouk (86) and Haaser (89) also participated.

The second round of league play was Aug. 12 at Apple Valley. The third round is Aug. 26 at Denison Golf Club and the final round is Sept. 9 at Darby Creek

"My top four have separated themselves, but we have a bottleneck for anywhere from Nos. 5-8," Fraley said. "Our top four could all be all-OCC, and Bryce could be the Player of the Year again. He has unworldly expectations."

-- Scott Hennen

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Braves face learning curve

Olentangy coach Joel Glassburn called this season "a learning year" with three new additions to a top five led by returning Division I district qualifier Tyler Phillips.

Phillips, a junior, opened the season Aug. 5 by shooting an 81 in the Liberty Preview at Delaware Golf Club and followed that up the next day with an 80 in the first round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament at Turnberry.

Phillips shot a 76 at district last year and placed 19th.

According to Glassburn, shot selection will be key to his continued improvement.

"That might have been what was holding him back a little bit. Now he's picking the right shots," said Glassburn, who is in his 17th season. "It's just a matter of executing them."

Senior Ben Wilch also returns for the Braves, who shot a 360 in the Liberty Preview to finish last of 10 teams. They trimmed four shots for the first round of the league tournament while placing fourth (356).

Wilch shot an 87 at Turnberry, followed by senior Luke Keevins (93) and freshman Ben Stroud (96). Freshman Jack Hainrihar shot a 102.

"At this point, we just want to get better even if it's a little bit each day," Glassburn said. "I saw a lot of improvement even though the score didn't necessarily show it. I saw it in decision making and shot execution. We got to (Turnberry) early and analyzed everything we did (Aug. 5). I reminded them it's a long season. When it comes to crunch time, if we can cut shots every time we go out, then we're going to be in better shape when it comes to tournament time."

Glassburn likes the move from the OCC-Buckeye to the OCC-Cardinal.

"We kind of traded Liberty and Orange for Jerome and Berlin. After that, with Marys-ville, Darby, Thomas (Worth-ington) and us ... it's a good league for us," he said. "It will be a big stretch to beat (Jerome and Berlin), but it's just a matter of us getting better. ...

"It's going to be one of those years where we're up and down, and that's why those little improvements are so key. Our lineup will probably rotate. I want to get everybody experience. We'll have to be patient."

-- Dave Purpura

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

At a glance

BERLIN

*Coach: Andrew Fraley, third season

*Top players: Brady Casto, Ethan Hegg and Bryce Reed

*Key losses: Layne Comyns, Brody Moore, Leila Raines and Tanner Shimp

*2019 OCC-Cardinal standings: Dublin Jerome (27-1), Berlin (22-6), Hilliard Bradley (20-8), Delaware (19-9), Hilliard Darby (11-17), Worthington Kilbourne (8-20), Thomas Worthington (4-24), Dublin Scioto (1-27)

*2019 postseason: Second at sectional, eighth at district

LIBERTY

*Coach: Ryan Snivley, 17th season

*Top players: Ben Armbruster, Andrew Blosser, Jack O'Donnell, Grant Smeltzer and Jack Snyder

*Key loss: Hunter Corbin

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (19-1), Orange (17-3), Westerville Central (11-9), Olentangy (9-11), Westerville North (3-17), Westerville South (1-19)

*2019 postseason: Second at sectional, second at district, tied for fifth at state

OLENTANGY

*Coach: Joel Glassburn, 17th season

*Top players: Luke Keevins, Tyler Phillips, Ben Stroud and Ben Wilch

*Key losses: Taylor Lansdale and Bennett Zeitner

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (19-1), Orange (17-3), Central (11-9), Olentangy (9-11), North (3-17), South (1-19)

*2019 postseason: Seventh at sectional

ORANGE

*Coach: Jerrod Ross, third season

*Top players: Corbin Bentley, Nathan Brown, Jonathan Green, Luke Johnson and Mitch Perdue

*Key losses: None

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (19-1), Orange (17-3), Central (11-9), Olentangy (9-11), North (3-17), South (1-19)

*2019 postseason: Third at sectional, fifth at district

Olentangy junior Tyler Phillips follows a tee shot during the first round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 6 at Turnberry. Phillips, who placed 19th in the Division I district tournament last season, led the Braves with an 80.