FRONT ROYAL – While his golfers took part in the Curly Licklider Memorial Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club on Wednesday afternoon, Monty Goff spoke of his high school coaching debut with Skyline in 2018 and of the lessons he learned.

Goff, the former PGA assistant golf professional at SVGC who now works at Locust Hill Golf Course in Charles Town, West Virginia, is as qualified as high school golf coaches come, but even some aspects of the job went over his head initially.

Goff, at the time of his coaching debut, didn’t know he needed to provide a water cooler for his players, nor did he realize the need for a first-aid kit, a lesson he said he learned quickly last year when one of his golfers injured their wrist during the first tournament of the season.

Perhaps most surprising of all were the jitters that Goff said his presence on the course during matches and tournament produced in his players, an odd fact considering he offered individual instruction for many of those same players outside of the high school golf season.

“I was surprised last year that I made them as nervous as I did, which shocked me because I dealt with most of them on an individual basis anyway,” Goff said with a smile on Wednesday. “… This year I pretty much have stayed out of the way of things. I will check in on them, I’ll make sure, but where I’ll spend most of my focus is when we’re out on the golf course practicing, in the lessons and stuff.”

When Goff is allowed to show himself on the links and impart his knowledge on his players, he’ll do so to a large group of Hawks. Goff said 17 players will make up Skyline’s golf team this year (11 players, including two eighth-graders, were listed on the team roster on Friday afternoon), including most of last season’s starting six.

One of Skyline’s losses was a big one – Lauren Sims, who made two state tournament appearances, was the Region 3B runner-up last season and the Class 3 Northwestern District tournament champ in 2017, graduated last spring.

But five Hawks who had starting experience in 2018 – juniors Noah Williams, Gabe Smith, Daniel Campbell, Zach Karnes and Audrey Dueweke – all return, and Skyline added another experienced player in Sherando transfer Caleb Dotson, a senior who played as the Warriors’ No. 2 last year.

“We played in the (Class 3) Northwestern District mini Monday (at Greene Hills) and we shot 40 shots better than we did a year ago,” Goff said of the start to Skyline’s season, which included Wednesday’s 18th-place effort at the Curly Licklider tournament. “… What I’m hoping for is, we’re gonna have a tough time competing against Brentsville and William Monroe but when the regionals come around, there’s six (state-qualifying) spots available for individuals, and I’m hoping that out of those six spots I fill most of them with my kids. They’re gonna be there.”

Williams played as Skyline’s No. 1 in the Hawks’ first two tournaments of the season, and though he shot a 91 on Wednesday, Goff said the junior placed fourth in Monday’s district mini and should compete for an individual state-qualifying spot.

Smith, Dotson, Campbell, Karnes and Dueweke filled out the second through sixth lineup spots on Wednesday.

Although Goff said on Wednesday that the Hawks were already approaching the same number of full practices they had in a 2018 season plagued by poor weather, he noted that Skyline still needed a lot of work collectively on its short game.

“My kids can’t putt,” he said. “They really can’t and it kills me, so we’re gonna spend a lot of time doing short-game stuff. Really, I think we’ll be competitive. We’ll have some fun. But we’re in a tough region.”

Though Region 3B figures to be a challenge – Brentsville (eighth, 509), William Monroe (11th, 517) and newcomer Central (15th, 558) all finished better than Skyline (574) in the Curly Licklider tournament – Goff said the Hawks won’t break their backs trying to keep pace with some of the tougher teams in their region/district during the regular season.

Every Region 3B team will automatically qualify for the regional tournament this season, and Goff, whose team placed third in the region last year, said he’ll use the regular season to give all of his players some varsity action, something that could be particularly useful to the handful of players that Goff said are brand-new to the sport.

“I’m gonna play all my kids. I’ll stick in some of the freshmen. I’ll even stick in the one kid that has three lessons with me. At some point in time I’ll put him in a match just to let him see what it’s like,” Goff said.

“I’m gonna let these kids just enjoy what they’re doing, could care less whether we win matches or not because it really doesn’t (matter). As long as we’re enjoying it and having fun, the most important stuff is this (Curly Licklider) tournament, the one Monday (the Bryan Gunter Invitational, which Skyline won’t compete in this year) and the region. I’m gonna take the pressure off of them and it takes the pressure off of me.”

– Contact Brad Fauber at bfauber@nvdaily.com