While most coaches know which players will be returning, there are plenty of holes to fill. Woodstock graduated its top player in Cherokee Tribune Player of the Year, Eric Burns. Cherokee also graduated its ace Brandon Price, while Sequoyah will be without all-county player Riley Davenport.
Etowah, Creekview and River Ridge don’t have to look for new No. 1’s.
At Etowah, coach Phil Dutko returns nine players, after having a young team last season. The Eagles will be led by No. 1 Nick Budd, who earned all-county as a freshman in 2012.
He will be joined by four-year players Adam Cross, Jake Forbes, Jason Hammaker and Trenton Sanders. Sophomore Jake Haggery looks to contribute as well.
Among the team’s goals, Dutko says they want to win the county championship and do well enough in the region and sectional meets to make it to states.
It won’t be easy though. The Eagles play in a tough area along with some of the best teams in the state.
“This year’s field will be very tough,” said Dutko. “With three of the top 10 teams from last year’s state tournament in our region.”
Creekview returns its top three players from last season, but coach Jimmy Thigpen is still looking for a consistent fourth.
“We are returning an experienced team that had a solid season last year,” he said. “We are looking to build on a top five region finish last year and shoot for a region title this year.”
Those top players are Jared O’Kelley, Damon Powers and Kip Denison. Powers was named to the all-county team. Other returning players include Austin Currie, Jon Moyer, Marshall Richards, Alex Stevens and Andrew Barrett.
Cherokee returns two solid players in Eric Peterson and Aaron Powell, but because teams weren’t allowed to practice until Feb. 18 and Cherokee County did not have school that week, the Warriors are still going through the tryout process.
Sequoyah returns all-county player Nick Vogel, Trent Dorner, Rex Lauletta, Connor Diehl.
“The rest of it is kind of untested waters,” said Sequoyah coach Curtis Williams.
The team opens play Saturday at the Creekview tournament, where it is the defending champion. The Chiefs also won the county championship last season
In addition to losing Davenport, Bobby Flannagan and Austin Brown graduated.
The Chiefs are moving from a really tough golf region into one that Williams thinks is slightly less competitive, although Creekview remains a force to recon with.
Williams is excited about the addition of the sectional round.
“It really would have helped us out last year,” said Williams. “I think we’ll be in good shape with it.”
River Ridge, which did not have any seniors last year, will return the balk of its team as well.