FRONT ROYAL — The common theme for area high school golf teams this season seems to be inexperience, and Sherando hasn’t been spared when it comes to having players with lack of course time.
The Warriors have two established golfers up top in their lineup, where seniors Parker Gregg and Ian Adams will hold down the Nos. 1 and 2 spots this fall. But that’s about it when it comes to playing experience for Sherando, which opened its second season under head coach Joe Knight last week with a Class 4 Northwestern District mini tournament at Fauquier Springs on Monday and the Curly Licklider Memorial Tournament on Wednesday at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.
“Virtually everyone else on the team has never played a high school match before in their life,” Knight said on Wednesday. “They had a pretty rough outing (last) Monday. I know they were really kind of down and disappointed, but we talked a little bit about it. That’s a tough course to play on and a pretty tough way to open the season. We had a pretty good practice (Tuesday) and just looking at our scores today in this tournament, virtually everyone from number two all the way down to No. 6 dropped a significant amount of strokes. So looking at it as a coach, pretty pleased with today’s performance but obviously we have a ways to go.”
Last week’s season opener in the eight-team district mini saw Sherando tie for fifth place while posting a team score of 392, with Gregg (79) being the only Warrior who shot in double figures.
Wednesday’s Curly Licklider tournament counted all six individual scores to determine each team’s collective total, and the Warriors (622) placed 21st out of 22 teams that fielded full lineups. All eight Class 4 Northwestern District schools competed in the event, and Sherando would’ve beaten only Culpeper County had the tournament used the traditional four-golfer scoring.
Early indications are that the Warriors, who earned a spot in the Region 4C tournament last season, will have a hard time contending at the district and regional levels in 2019.
“It’s gonna be tough, obviously, from what we’ve seen,” Knight said of the district. “James Wood looks solid this year. Handley looks much, much improved this year. In our district, Kettle Run is tough, Fauquier is tough, and then you add in the mix James Wood and you add in Handley, that’s gonna make it tough for us to even get out of the district.”
Gregg and Adams — who knocked 10 strokes off his score from the district mini to the Curly Licklider tournament — offer Sherando’s best shot at postseason contention.
Though Gregg’s 84 on Wednesday was higher than he’d like, especially on Sherando’s home course, his 79 in the district mini led all Winchester/Frederick County golfers and was good for fourth overall. Performances like that would earn Gregg, who played as Sherando’s No. 3 last season and led the Warriors with an 80 in the 2018 Northwestern District Championships, a regional appearance.
“If Parker keeps playing the way he’s playing and improves, we’re hoping he might be able to qualify in his own right, and Ian, both of those two (qualify) for the regional tournament and then we’ll see what happens from there,” Knight said. “It would be nice if at least one of them can get out and go to the state tournament. I know Parker, he’s really motivated. And so is Ian, don’t get me wrong. They both are, but in terms of if you ask about long term goals from my perspective as a coach and looking at the personnel we have and the skill level we have, those are the two that have the best possibility of moving forward.”
Senior Calvin Bowser played as Sherando’s No. 3 on Wednesday, with freshman Peyton Vaught and juniors Rylan Straightiff and Landon Rohani filling out spots four through six.
Knight said last Wednesday that the Warriors would play a practice round late last week, during which they would open up competition for spots five and six for the Bryan Gunter Invitational on Monday and Tuesday. The back half of Sherando’s lineup could be filled by different players as Knight tries to get the team’s younger players some experience.
“We need to give the other inexperienced boys a chance to get out on the course as well,” Knight said, “and that’s gonna be our objective, to get them exposed as much as we can.”
Though the 2019 season marks Knight’s second at the helm of Sherando’s golf team, it’s the first for the Warriors since longtime golf coach Rob Wright passed away in March. Gregg said that playing in the memory of his former coach give him a little extra motivation this season, but most of Sherando’s golf team had never played for Wright.
Because of that fact, Knight said, the Warriors won’t dwell on Wright’s passing.
“Parker and Ian both had played for him. The rest of the boys don’t really know too much about Sherando and the golfing history and coach Wright at all,” said Knight, who served as Sherando’s interim golf coach last season. “I do plan on talking to them briefly, but at the same time we have three brand-new freshmen on the team, we have two seniors who are brand-new to the team, and two juniors who are brand-new to the team, and like I said, they virtually know nothing about high school golf, and they certainly don’t know and appreciate the history with coach Wright and his 17 years of coaching at Sherando. We’re gonna move on.”