DeSales Roundup: Girls golfers charting positive course
Now in his sixth season as DeSales girls golf coach, Charlie Mitchell feels like he has a program -- not just a team -- moving in the right direction.
His top two golfers, seniors Faith Corn and Amanda Pancake, are in their fourth season on the team and have helped lead the Stallions to back-to-back CCL championships.
Pancake advanced to the Division I district tournament last year, on the heels of the team making its first appearance at that stage since 2010.
Mitchell even got his top golfer from last year, 2020 graduate Paige Verfurth, to coach the junior varsity team while she begins college at Ohio State.
"I've just been glad to find girls who really like the sport, who when you ask if they want to play nine holes, they'll go play 18," Mitchell said. "We have a pretty experienced team in those first three spots. I feel fortunate to have a team of some maturity coming back. I don't see any drop-off in those first three spots. Playing four years in a program in a sport you really like, you're going to get better. The ceiling gets pretty high. That's the key for us anyway, getting girls to stay in your program for four years. That's everything for us. That's everything in the other sports, too.
"As any coach will tell you, you're only as good as the players you have."
Pancake and Corn began the season as the first and second golfers, respectively, for DeSales, which opened Aug. 5 with a 176-186 loss to Delaware at Oakhaven. Junior Lizzy Gutman, a third-year varsity player, was in the third spot ahead of senior Melina McSweeny and junior Sarah Stevens.
Pancake finished 31st of 54 individuals at district last year.
"This is only her fourth year of competitive golf. She was a talented softball player when she was a freshman but when she decided to go all golf, she really took off," said Mitchell, who added that Pancake has received interest from colleges. "You could play both (sports) but they are pretty different. She takes lessons now. Her game is solid and I'm not sure she has scratched the surface of how good she can get. She can hit the ball a long way. She's an ex-softball player who really understands leverage."
Freshmen Addie Stonis and Lucy Willis are expected to challenge for varsity time.
The season's first CCL tournament was Aug. 12 at NorthStar, DeSales' home course which also will play host to the league's postseason tournament Oct. 10.
The Stallions went 6-0 in the CCL last year.
While Mitchell said he won't consider the season a failure if DeSales doesn't win another league title or advance to district, he has made sure his players know that expectations are lofty.
"I'm lucky to have some strong leadership with those top players. There's so much continuity built in," Mitchell said. "Everything is so much in flux (with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic). We just have to work hard and ignore all the other things that are going on. We have the talent to have a pretty solid season."
Boys golf squad features new lineup
The boys golf team replaced its entire top five from a year ago, but third-year coach Tony Pinson thinks he has found a stable No. 1 in freshman Vaughn Harber as well as plenty of depth throughout the rest of the lineup.
"We have golfers of all ages, but not a whole lot of varsity experience," Pinson said. "Vaughn will be our No. 1 and it's not even close. He shot 74 and 72 (in two qualifying rounds). He's just polished. He's 6-feet tall and has played competitive golf for years. He hits the ball a long way."
Harber was runner-up in the Central District Golf Association Junior Championship in July, defeating Dublin Jerome's Tyler Groomes -- last year's Division I state medalist and an Ohio State commit -- in a match play semifinal before losing to Hilliard Davidson's Zach Burton in the final.
Harber began his high school career Aug. 5 by shooting a 75 in the Pickerington Central Invitational at Turnberry, leading the Stallions to 15th (347) of 20 teams as the host Tigers won (298).
The rest of the lineup is expected to be flexible, with some movement between the A and B teams.
Other varsity contributors include two returnees from last year in junior Scott Armstrong and sophomore Luke Gabrielli, as well as senior Jack Imlay, junior Will Jordan, sophomore Jake Pierce and freshmen Joe Couhig and Devin McInerney.
The Stallions were scheduled to play seven 18-hole tournaments in the first 17 days of the season, including the CCL preseason tournament Wednesday, Aug. 19, at Hickory Hills and the inaugural DeSales Invitational on Aug. 22 at Chapel Hill.
Ten teams, mostly from Catholic schools, are scheduled to compete.
"This was the first thing I wanted to do when I (became head coach)," Pinson said. "It's taken two years. That third weekend of the season, I saw an opening and got in touch with some central and southwest Ohio teams and got a great response. It will be a competitive field at a great course."
DeSales went 3-5 in the CCL last year to tie Hartley for third behind St. Charles (8-0), which won its 12th consecutive league championship.
"We'll be a young team, but hopefully a good team. We'll keep building as we move along," Pinson said. "We'll have some tournaments where we'll surprise people and put up some good numbers. We'll have others where we might fall back a little bit. That's all going to be part of us growing as a team."
At a glance
*Coach: Tony Pinson, third season
*Top players: Scott Armstrong, Vaughn Harber, Jack Imlay and Will Jordan
*Key losses: Andrew Connor, Michael Cummins, Ryan Ratchford and Kyle Zevchik
*2019 CCL standings: St. Charles (8-0), Watterson (6-2), DeSales and Hartley (both 3-5), Ready (0-8)
*2019 postseason: 12th at sectional
*Coach: Charlie Mitchell, sixth season
*Top players: Faith Corn, Lizzy Gutman, Melina McSweeny and Amanda Pancake
*Key loss: Paige Verfurth
*2019 CCL standings: DeSales (6-0), Watterson (4-2), Hartley (2-4), Ready (0-6)
*2019 postseason: Fourth at sectional