Friday, August 16, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panther golf full of potential

Leader sports editor

The Cabot golf team returns a lot of players from last year, but is still fairly young with plenty of depth. The Panthers have a dozen or more players on the boys and girls teams and Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett is using the early matches as an opportunity to evaluate as many players as he can in the short season.

Only five players can play in a given match, with the top four scores tallied for the team score. Tollett has taken a different five to the first two matches, and everyone who hadn’t played yet to the third and most recent match at Red Apple Inn in Heber Springs.

“We have a couple of players that have played pretty well,” Tollett said. “We’ve got some young kids who didn’t play a lot of varsity this year who are trying to make a place for themselves. You can only take five to the conference tournament, so we’re trying to get a good look at all of them.”

Drake Oats is a junior who has played in the conference meet since his freshman year, and turned in a good score in his one match so far. Junior Joseph Denomie also played in state as a freshman, and Hayden Russell draws praise from Tollett for the improvement he’s shown since last season.

“Hayden has improved his game quite a bit and is probably our most-improved player,” Tollett said. “In two matches so far, he’s had one bad hole in each one or he’d be down there in the medalist range. He shot a 77 at North Little Rock, and took a 9 on a par 4. Butthat’s what this early stuff is about. We’ve got quite a bit of competition for our five spots.”

Senior Marlena Weatherly returns as the most experienced and consistent player on the girls team. Tollett is hesitant to single out anyone else as a top performer for the girls.

“The other four spots are very closely contested by all the other girls,” Tollett said. “Marlena is the most consistent at this point. She’s been in the top five in two of the tournaments. In a one-day match, one hole can be the difference in a big way as far as places. Every player is looking for that consistency and that’s what these early matches are about.”

Though the head Panther was reluctant to name very many leaders this early, he does see potential in the whole team.

“From my end, I’m expecting lots of improvement,” Tollett said.

“We have a number of players in boys and girls that are competing for consideration for district and state. We just need to see some more consistency. It’s a lifetime sport and it’s a game you learn in phases. You have to learn to get off the tee box, then you have to learn to play the fairways, and you learn the short game and then you learn to putt. It doesn’t come all at one time. So nothing is really set. Their performances are going to determine those spots and we have several that are very capable.”