“Both of our teams finished third in the region last year and we didn’t lose anybody, so we should be better,” declared Polk coach Jason Adams.
The Lady Wildcats went to the state tournament as a team three years ago and the Wildcats in 2010, while seniors Lydia Triplett and Evan Ball both made their second state fields as individuals last fall and are expected to lead the way for this year’s squads.
“Lydia is the anchor of our girls’ team and Evan is poised to have his best year yet,” proclaimed coach Adams. “With those two leading the way, and some strong players with them, we are looking good heading into the season.”
The Wildcats opened the fall campaign with a 16-stroke victory over Boyd-Buchanan last Thursday, but at the same time the Lady Wildcats dropped a close, three-stroke decision.
The class A-AA Polk squads will be back on the links tomorrow with a trip to the Cleveland County Club to face the class AAA Cleveland High.
The good news for the Wildcats heading into the season is their top five players are back. The bad news, is only those five players are back.
“With only five players, our biggest challenge is going to keep all of them motivated,” explained Adams. “With no one pushing them, they all know they are going to be in the lineup each match. Sometimes that takes their edge off.”
“Hopefully they will compete among themselves to earn the No. 1 spot,” he added.
The Wildcats have a trio of seniors and a pair of sophomores.
“We didn’t show any nerves last week (in the win over Boyd-Buchanan),” Adams expressed. “We’re a little more seasoned this year and we have guys that are capable of putting up some good scores on a consistent basis.”
“Evan (Ball) is hitting the ball great off the tee and his short game is strong,” the coach stated. “He is having a little trouble with his putting and that is the only thing keeping him from being at the level he is capable [of reaching].”
“He started (the season opener) with a four-putt and had three three-putts but still shot an 82,” Adams related.
Senior Cameron Bean started the season with a bang, earning low medalist honors in the first match with a 2-over-par 74. He had a pair of birdies and four bogeys to go with a dozen pars.
“Cameron missed the state tournament by one stroke last year with an 83 in the region,” Adams related. “He played several TGA tournaments this summer and is becoming more consistent.”
Jake Burrows is the team’s other 12th-grader. “His strong points include his long irons and fairway woods. He’s not our longest driver off the tee but makes up for it with his fairway game,” the coach assessed.
Sophomore Michael Rongey and Ryan Droke round out the Wildcat squad.
“Michael shot even par on the front nine Thursday, but then slipped to 43 on the back, but still broke 80,” Adams remarked.
“He is out here (at Chatata Valley) all the time. He loves the game and has improved tremendously.”
“Ryan drives the ball good. He can play, but sometimes he lets a bad shot or hole bother him,” the coach commented.
“As a team (in the opener) we shot 152 in the front nine, but slipped to 169 on the back,” Adams related. “It was hot and I think we got a little winded.”
“We need to work on that, especially before district and region,” he added. “Sequoyah won it (the region) last year and they only lost one player. If we keep our motivation up, we should be in every match this year.”
Adams expects the same from the girls’ squad.
With a sixth place finish in the TSSAA championships to earn all-state honors last fall, Triplett is looking to build on a strong summer tournament season as she enters her final high school campaign.
With four birdies, along with a couple of costly double bogeys, she ran away with medalist honors with a 4-over 76 in the season opener.
“Lydia is on the course all the time. She’s an extremely hard worker and has raised her game tremendously,” praised Adams. “She’s a great example for our younger golfers to show what can be done when you put in the time to get better.”
Triplett’s summer season was highlighted by winning the Tennessee Women’s Amateur First Flight title in her first ever match-play competition.
“She is challenging herself with the type of tournaments she’s been playing this summer,” the coach related. “Her goal for this year is to win the district, region and return to the state tournament with a shot the state title.”
Junior Emily Massengill and sophomore Lauren Passmore will be challenged by freshman Heather Ellis for the Nos. 2 and 3 spot for the Lady Wildcats.
“Emily worked hard over the summer with a swing coach and is driving the ball better,” Adams remarked. “Heather has played for three years at the (Chilhowee) middle school and was a little nervous in her first match last week.”
“The competition between the three of them (Massengill, Passmore, Ellis) should be good for their play.
“With us (A-AA) having the last state tournament this year, our season is a little more spread out, which means we’re not so rushed to get our (14) dates in,” stated Adams. “We can be patient and not play as many matches back-to-back, which should help us.”