Tuesday, August 13, 2013

SPORTS STORY>>Beebe golf team green, committed

Leader sportswriter

The numbers are typical and the experience level is below average, but Beebe golf coach Justin Moore is enthusiastic about the group he has this year. The Badgers are coming off a solid season debut at the Eagle Mountain course in Batesville last week and are preparing for a slate of conference home matches this year at the Greystone course in Cabot.

Beebe is coming off a successful 2012 season in which the boys’ team took third place in conference and finished seventh in class 5A while girls player Taylor Harrell won the 5A East title and finished third at the state level as an individual. Most of the top players, including Harrell, have since graduated, leaving Moore with a group of less experienced players, many of them juniors.

“It’s pretty common,” Moore said of the 11-player group that includes six boys and five girls. “Two years ago, when I took over this program, they gave me a list of 10 names, and that was what we had. We get 10 to 15 sign up every year. We had 15 sign ups for this season. A lot of the girls don’t have much experience, but they all showed up, and they’ve been here every day.”

Moore said that for the female players, the willingness to learn and improve has overshadowed lack of experience. Two of the players are not even officially listed on the roster, but junior players Valerie Cook, Emily Walls and Baylee Halford make up the core of the girls’ squad.

Halford, who is also a standout on the Lady Badger softball team, led the way at Eagle Mountain last week with a 115. Moore pointed out that while it may not sound like an impressive score, the winning score on the girls’ side was a 100, meaning that Halford, a true novice when it comes to golf, is not far off the pace.

Junior Cole McNeil is the only player returning with significant experience. McNeil finished a close second place at Eagle Mountain last week with a 79, and Moore said he expects McNeil to win a number of tournaments individually this year.

Another junior, Hunter Davis, also has experience, but will most likely have to sit out the season following elbow surgery to replace a screw left in from a previous procedure. Davis is expected to be fully recovered by October towards the end of the season, making his return in 2013 questionable at this point. That gives a larger role to Davis’ younger brother and freshman Landon Davis, who shot a solid 86 at Eagle Mountain.

“The biggest thing is looking to see if we can piece a team together or have to play as individuals,” Moore said. “They are very capable of qualifying as individuals, but it just makes it easier mentally knowing you’re part of a group. We’re going to be talented at the top and looking for people to fill in below that.”

The Badgers will return to Eagle Mountain on Aug. 20 for another match before hosting their first match on Aug. 22 at Greystone.