By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
URBANA — Entering the new season, the Tippecanoe boys golf team is learning to deal with expectations.
After graduating five of its seven players from last year, Troy is trying to manage them a bit.
Both did a solid job with those expectations on the new season’s opening day competing in the Urbana Invitational Monday at Urbana Country Club, as the Red Devils finished second with 339 and the young Trojans were fourth with 358.
Coming into the season, teams are looking at Tippecanoe as the favorite in the new Miami Valley League, and Monday’s match was the first matchup between two of its teams — even if it was in a 10-team invitational tournament.
“We have three returners that were all-league last year, so we’re expecting good things this year,” Tippecanoe coach Aaron Jackson said. “Both Butler and Troy lost a lot, and we have three of our studs back. So the pressure is on us. We’ve talked about how to handle it a little bit. It’s been a long time since Tipp has won a golf conference championship — we looked at the banners, and it’s back in the mid-90s. That’s something we’re looking at. That’s definitely a goal of ours.”
Troy, which shared the final Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division championship with Butler last year, graduated Division I state qualifier Holden Scribner and four other regular starters in the offseason. But with only two returning players and a bunch of newbies, coach Mark Evilsizor was pleased with Monday’s results.
“We wanted to see where we stacked up against Tipp,” Evilsizor said. “Nineteen strokes, that’s not bad. We want to at least keep them in striking distance. We’ll take that.”
The Devils — who improved on their score from last year by 19 strokes — were second only to Fairbanks, which won the tournament with 327.
“The course was tough today, too,” Jackson said. “The kids grinded a little bit for the scores that they got, had a lot of three-putts today. It was a mental test for us, and they did pretty great.
“We showed a lot of improvement here from last year. We were fifth last year (with a 358), so to finish second this year is a great improvement. And the kids were excited to see how much better they did from last year.”
That improvement began with Nathan Gagnon, too. The junior was the individual runner-up on the day, shooting 78. Fairbanks’ Travis Brake was medalist with a 76, and no one else shot below 80.
“Nathan’s doing great,” Jackson said. “He’s having a great summer, and the improvement that he has made is really incredible. To go from a mid-80s to upper-70s is one of the tougher things to do in golf. He’s put in a lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of tournaments, and it’s showing. And he’s being a leader on the team this year, too. In the past, we’ve had upperclassmen, so now he’s a junior and it’s finally time to step into that role.”
Braydon Bottles was third individually with an 81 and Matt Salmon finished with an 85, with those three being the Devils’ three returning all-league performers from last season. Joey Pleiman shot 95 and Nolan Lawson shot 99.
The Trojans, who were second in last year’s Urbana Invitational, finished fourth behind Northmont, which finished third with 349.
“I feel good. The score I had in mind today for us was sub-360. I thought that would be realistic,” Evilsizor said. “So to shoot 358, and that with our No. 2-man struggling a little today, that’s a solid score.
“It’s a tough course. This is a really good challenge for day one of the season. It’s tight, it gives you some tough lies, greens are fast. This is a really good test for us. And for a lot of us, this was our first varsity match, so I was really pleased with how the new guys ended up doing.”
Ryan Dowling led the Trojans on the day with an 85. Owen Evilsizor followed with a 90, Tag Bender shot 91, Henry Johnston shot 92 and Kellen Glover shot 97. Dowling and Johnston are the Trojans’ only two returning varsity starters from last year.
“Ryan ended up with an 85. It took him a little while to get going, but I thought on the back nine, he played really well, strung some nice holes together,” Evilsizor said. “Owen was second today with a 90 — that’s bogey golf, which is kind of like the starting point for some of these guys. Get bogey golf and then try to work on doing better than that. He kept his head about himself and played well.
“Tag, he started off with a quad and a triple, and then he went 2-under the next four holes. Tag’s issue right now is consistency, and obviously that’s something he needs to focus on — because after that, the rest of the round, he was pretty consistent. Henry struggled today, and that’s going to happen sometimes. We don’t want to put pressure on him to perform at the highest level all the time, and today other kids helped out and picked him up a bit. He’ll be fine. And Kellen, that’s his first varsity experience ever, and I think he’s going to get his scores down, too.”
Still, Evilsizor took the day as a positive sign.
“These are all things that we can work on,” Evilsizor said. “These are all issues that are fixable. Overall, I’m really pleased. We only got beat by one other team in our sectional (Tippecanoe), so that’s a good sign.”
Miami East matched last year’s place in the tournament, finishing eighth with a 387. Sam Zapadka shot 87 to lead the way, Ty Fetters shot 96, Colin Jennings shot 101 and Noah King and Andrew Bevan both shot 103.
Tippecanoe will be back in action Tuesday at the Miamisburg Invitational, while Miami East will compete in the Kendig Memorial Wednesday at Echo Hills. Troy will then get to face the Devils again on Thursday at the Greenville Invitational.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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