Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers’ boys’ golf showing potential

Leader sports editor

Students may have just reported to school on Monday, but high school golf teams have been competing since the first week of August. The Cabot Panthers have competed three times, including two matches and one tournament. The boys’ team is 1-1 in match play and did poorly in a tournament, but has shown the potential to be a competitor and a contender for conference and state titles.

The girls’ team is trying to replace one of the state’s top golfers from last year, and time on the course will be valuable experience for end-of-season tournaments.

The boys’ team lost by one stroke to Conway in its first match at Cypress Creek. The next week it had a disappointing outing in a tournament at Conway. The following day, the team played a match against North Little Rock at the Greens at North Hills, and totally reversed course from the day before.

“We’re still searching for some consistency,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett of his boys. “The kids are playing pretty well for a few holes then having some out-of-character mistakes. Conway is kind of a target course and you have to know where you’re going. It’s pretty tough if you haven’t been on it and they were pretty disappointed in their scores there. Then we come back the next day and each one of them shaved 10 or 12 strokes off their scores from the day before. So we need to be more consistent, especially with our short game.”

Senior Jacob Lott was second to the medalist against North Little Rock by one stroke. He held a one-stroke lead with four holes to play, but bogeyed two of the final four holes to finish with an even-par 72.

“It’s just short game issues mostly,” Tollett said. “Jacob had two par putts of about six feet and missed them both. So we have to work on that touch.”

Senior Drake Oaks, who has been on the varsity squad since his 10th-grade year, also had a great round going and was in the lead until putting two shots out of bounds on the final hole.

“Drake ought to be our No. 1 player, and at times he looks like it,” Tollett said. “Like I said with all of them, it’s just a matter of consistency. He went to work over the summer and didn’t really play enough to fine tune his game, but as we play more he has the potential to do really well. I really think this whole boys’ team has the potential. They’re just going to have to work at it.”

Tollett said Lott and fellow seniors Bradlee Hicks and Joseph Denomie have been the most consistent players so far. Oaks, Bodey Jackson and J.P. Gairhan are the other three seniors on the varsity squad. They’re joined by sophomore Jordan Lott, who shot a 75 in the first match, on the varsity squad.

Sophomores Matt Walters and Hays Barger, and freshman Trey Tonneson round out the boys’ JV team.

In the 7A-Central Con-ference, Cabot’s main competitors will be Conway, Catholic and North Little Rock. The state tournament will be held at The Greens this year, and Cabot has two more matches scheduled on that course before the big one.

“It’s not what I’d call a really tough course,” Tollett said. “If you’re spraying the ball around you can get in trouble anywhere, but this is a course you can score on if you’re striking it well. We have to have more matches there before state so we’re going to have a chance to get to know it a little more.”

Senior Coral Byrnes, who Tollett says is the top player right now, leads the girls’ team. Lauren Travis, Lauren Bettis and Corbin Friddel are three other seniors on the varsity squad. Junior Danielle O’Shields, sophomores Haley Morris, Taylor Ahart and Kara Estes, and freshman Hannah Keister round out the Lady Panthers’ team.

“We’re working on all phases of the game,” Tollett said. “We’re really not doing anything different from any golfer. You have to spend about 60 percent of your time on your short game, 30 percent of irons and 10 percent with the driver. We’re just trying to hone it in and get better. We want everyone to have fun – boys and girls. If you go out there and work to get better, then go out there and give it your best, then you can enjoy yourself. That’s what we want them to do.”