Girls Golf: Pickerington North excited about blend of experience, youth

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
North senior Ella Bertke watches her drive on No. 10 at Denison Golf Club during a Licking County Junior Golf Association match this summer. Bertke is among the top returning golfers for the Panthers, who are seeking their third OCC-Ohio Division championship in four years.

For all the experience Pickerington North girls golf coach Nathan Weibush has throughout his lineup, he is most optimistic about the team's youth.

"We have two seniors in the top four but after that, we're pretty young. I think that bodes well," said Weibush, whose team is seeking its third OCC-Ohio Division championship in four years. "It's the maturity. They've all matured quite a bit and gained a lot of experience."

Senior Cassie Tasney returns for her third season as North's top golfer, ahead of sophomore Reagan Norton, junior Kendall Burton and senior Ella Bertke rounding out the top four.

While Tasney, who hopes to compete in college, quickly re-established herself in the top spot, Weibush expected plenty of competition throughout the rest of the lineup as the season began Aug. 5 with the North Union Invitational at Mill Creek.

"Reagan played all season as a freshman and her confidence has increased quite a bit. Kendall, coming in as a junior, is taking on some leadership qualities," Weibush said. "Ella is a very vocal, positive person to have around, and Cassie is just a leader. She's been on varsity all four years, and she knows what it takes in to be in that No. 1 spot.

"It's nice to be able to rely on them. I don't feel like I have to be on them all the time. They know what they have to do and what they're going to do. They know how to manage the game and play the course. That's what makes me so optimistic."

Freshmen Cayla Tasney, Cassie's sister, and Josie Zeiher round out the lineup.

According to Weibush, Zeiher attended St. Pius X in Reynoldsburg last year but switched into the Pickerington district, where her mother is a teacher.

North began OCC-Ohio competition Aug. 12 with the first round of the four-round league tournament at Blacklick Woods. The Panthers went 16-4 in the league last year to finish second behind Grove City (18-2), and Weibush expects the Greyhounds to again be the team to beat this season.

Grove City is led by returning Division I state qualifier Lizzie Saur, who tied for seventh last year, and adds her freshman sister, Bella, to the lineup this year.

The Panthers finished eighth at district a year ago.

"I'm optimistic. Our early tournaments are a great test to see where we are," Weibush said. "Of all the sports, I think golf is one of the most likely -- if not the most likely -- to get our entire season in. I'm very optimistic for that and I think we'll make some noise this year. Our league is tough and I think we have what it takes to make a run toward the district (tournament) again. With the girls we have, I'd be disappointed if we didn't make it out of the sectional."

New Central coach wants to build program

New Central coach Greg Moore hopes this season is the beginning of a new era for the Tigers, given their experience and increased turnout.

Central opened Aug. 7 at North's Panther Invitational at Turnberry with 12 golfers, far more than in recent years.

Senior Riley Stewart and junior Ella Drake were in the top two spots, followed by seniors Karlie Skaggs and Jessica Tarr rotating between third and fourth.

"The obvious thing (regarding turnout) is four girls came up from junior high and that's the bulk of it right there," Moore said.

"I told the girls after practice (Aug. 5) that I need them to stay together, need them to play for the next two or three years together and we'll be pretty good."

Drake shot a 93 and Stewart a 98 in the Panther Invitational, leading Central to 25th place (415) out of 27 teams as Mason won (307).

Drake and Stewart were among the Tigers' top three golfers last year along with graduate Miriah Gabel, who now competes at Purdue Northwest.

"Losing Miriah was back but having Riley and Ella coming back and then probably having Jessica and Karlie rounding out the top four will be big," Moore said. "Some of the freshmen are kind of raw still so I want to keep together and have them encouraging each other."

Moore, a business and marketing education teacher at Central, succeeded Alecia Larsen, who coached three seasons.

Moore, who also has coached the Ridgeview Junior High boys and girls golf teams, said freshman Maggie Blausey could vie for time in the top five.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Kennedy Carter, Leah Childers and Audrey Roberts, sophomore Grace O'Grady and freshmen Nina Ambos, Cara Loughey and Lydia McComas.

Junior Jenna Saythongphet, who was in the top five all of last season, recently moved to Canal Winchester.

Central ended last season with five golfers.

The Tigers had six in 2018, five in 2017 and three in 2016.

"We're trying to build a program. We are looking at this year as being the start of something new," Moore said. "I have some more promising players down at the junior high. We want to build that pipeline."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

CENTRAL

*Coach: Greg Moore, first season

*Top players: Ella Drake, Karlie Skaggs, Riley Stewart and Jessica Tarr

*Key losses: Miriah Gabel

*2019 OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (18-2), Pickerington North (16-4), Gahanna (12-8), Pickerington Central (9-11), Big Walnut (4-16), Lancaster (0-20)

*2019 postseason: Fifth at sectional

NORTH

*Coach: Nathan Weibush, third season

*Top players: Ella Bertke, Kendall Burton, Reagan Norton and Cassie Tasney

*Key losses: Allyson Rosen

*2019 postseason: Second at sectional, eighth at district

Senior Riley Stewart is among the top returning players for the Central girls golf team and first-year coach Greg Moore.