In high school, I had the privilege of playing for Coach Dan Drummond at Unioto. I was an average player who had not been playing golf very long at the time. I had the ability to shoot some good scores when I played well, but when it went bad, I was bad enough to post some really high numbers. I remember Coach Drummond explaining to me one time that if a player makes an unusual big number he believed that player most likely stopped competing at some point. This is so true. This really helped me grow as a competitor in other sports where I had more talent, but I never really understood how it applied to golf until after high school. The reason I mention this is because I believe this is going to be the key for Southeastern this season.
It is extremely tough for one team to run the table and win all eight SVC matches, so Unioto and Southeastern will both win matches throughout the year. Usually what decides the league is a teamâ€™s ability to avoid finishing lower than second throughout the season. This is why Southeasternâ€™s top three players must find a way to make sure their worst rounds are rounds that can still count towards a top-two finish. Southeastern definitely has the firepower at the top of its lineup. Eli McKee, Ben Davis, and Layton Ackley all shot in the 30s last year in SVC play including McKeeâ€™s incredible round of 30 at Running Fox (Click here to look back at this record performance). It isnâ€™t going to be the nights Southeastern is playing well that will decide if they can win the league, but it will be the nights the top of the lineup struggles.
This was evident last year. Southeastern posted several good finishes with second and third place finishes; however, it had a few matches where they dropped into the bottom half. On the final day of league play, Southeastern was second on the front side and seventh on the back. Southeastern does not have the depth Unioto has, so Southeasternâ€™s top three or four players must find a way to save a 44 or 45 out of a round that seems to be getting away. Often times, a kid feels like a bad round will just be dropped on the individual all-league list (a rule I am not fond of but I will save this debate for another article), but it is important for kids to understand every stroke counts. It is that same lesson Coach Drummond was trying to teach me many years ago. I remember him saying a three-footer for a triple bogey will count the same as a three-footer for birdie when the final score is totaled.
Unioto has incredible firepower as well. The Shermans have great experience led by a trio of seniors â€“ Josh Cushing, Dallas Johnson, and Michael Smart â€“ all of whom were all-league a year ago. Colton Forcum enters his junior season as the runner-up to Huntingtonâ€™s Duane Irvin in last yearâ€™s player of the year race. Forcum posted scores in the 30s fairly consistently, but a great example of what makes Unioto so good took place at Foxfire last year. In SVC Match #8 Forcum posted a 44 and Uniotoâ€™s No. 2 man Drew Nichols (another all-league player) shot a 48. Unioto was able to drop both scores, take the scores from the bottom four guys, and the Shermans still won by 17 shots with a team score of 162. This yearâ€™s Southeastern team will not have this luxury.
The other team that has potential is Piketon. The Redstreaks return two all-league players in Jay Davis and Saxton Nance. Piketon also has some nice athletes who should be a year better, and this makes Piketon dangerous - particularly at courses like Big Beaver and Dogwood. It is probably unrealistic that Piketon can string together enough rounds to compete for the league, but the Redstreaks are capable of winning a match and they are definitely capable of finishing second and shaking the standing completely up.
Another key point is the variety of courses that the league plays. On the stretch of tight, yet shorter courses such as Dogwood, Big Beaver, and Valley Vista, scores can have more parity. When the league moves deeper into the year and the courses get longer such as Jaycees and especially Foxfire the best players will usually rise to the top.
As for a prediction, Unioto has to be the favorite. I do think Southeastern will find a way to post a win or two, but Uniotoâ€™s depth will once again be the difference in helping a veteran team repeat as SVC champions. The league gets started on Thursday at Dogwood Hills. With most schools being in session at that point, the match is slated for a 4 p.m. start.