FRONT ROYAL – The roster turnover for Warren County’s golf team was pretty extensive.
Of the Wildcats’ six regular starters from a season ago, five are gone, including Warren County’s top two golfers from last year: Joey Sorge, a two-time Class 3 state qualifier, and David Kelly, a 2018 state qualifier who will play golf at West Virginia Tech this fall.
With only one player back with significant varsity experience and no seniors on the roster, head coach Matt Wadas said he’s never had a season quite like this one in his 13 years with the program.
“We’re gonna take our lumps this year, but I think that’s part of golf,” Wadas said on Wednesday. “If this group can stick together like the last one did, we went a couple years without winning seasons and that group came along and they stayed together. They played together and I think it was back-to-back years with kids at states; both years we had a winning record. If these kids can follow what those kids did, I think good things can happen. But golf’s a frustrating game and we’re gonna have to go through that stage of it.”
Wednesday’s outing at the Curly Licklider Memorial Tournament, Warren County’s own event and the season opener for the Wildcats, showed how far the Wildcats have to go if they hope to be competitive in the Class 3 Northwestern District and Region 3B.
Playing with only five golfers in the 26-team tournament, which featured five of the six Class 3 Northwestern District schools, Warren County didn’t qualify for a team score but would’ve finished near the back of the pack regardless as all five golfers shot in triple figures.
It wasn’t a surprising outcome for Wadas, who cautioned his players not to put much stock into their scores, especially early in the season as many of the Wildcats try to find their footing as first-time varsity starters.
Wadas said he told the Wildcats the night before the Curly Licklider tournament that they need to temper the inevitable frustration that will come with high scores and focus instead on shooting consistent numbers, no matter how high or low, all season.
“This early part of the season they’re gonna be frustrated. I even said (Tuesday) night before our end of the practice meeting, I was like ‘don’t put numbers on yourself for tomorrow,’” Wadas said. “The first day they’re gonna be high, this is about experience. So think getting over that level of frustration and working toward consistency.”
Michael Kelly, a junior and David Kelly’s younger brother, is the lone Wildcat with prior varsity experience, and though he shot a 104 – Warren County’s best score – on Wednesday, Wadas said he’s one that stands out this early in the season.
“He saw his brother do it,” Wadas said. “His brother’s going to play golf in college, so he knows already when he hits a shot, I don’t have to walk up to him and say this and this. He plays with his brother and he has his brother and saw how his brother did it.”
Wadas added that a newcomer, Will Baldwin, could come in and make an immediate impact at the top of Warren County’s lineup. Baldwin, who was on vacation this week and won’t join the golf team until next week, Wadas said, has golf experience and chose that over football this fall.
Wadas said Baldwin likely would fill in at the No. 1 spot, which the Wildcats left vacant in Wednesday’s tournament.
“We’re really excited to see him and what he can do,” said Wadas, who noted that Baldwin’s parents are members at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, Warren County’s home course. “I think he has a chance to be a really solid one for us.”
Juniors Megan Rittgers and Jackson Pond both were on Warren County’s golf team last season but saw little to no varsity action, Wadas said. Those two played the third and fourth spots for the Wildcats on Wednesday, with freshman Landon Pond and sophomore Will Waller, two baseball players that Wadas recruited in the offseason, filling out the final two spots.
Wadas said Warren County’s lineup will fluctuate all season long.
“Some of the kids look at me and just don’t know some of the basic rules, so I think one of our biggest things this year is just gonna be playing a lot,” said Wadas, who has seven players on the roster this fall. “We’re gonna have the days we take them on the driving range and fix the little things in the swing, but more than that I think it’s just let’s get on the course and play and play and play.”