‘Simply ecstatic’: Coach reflects on boys varsity golf team performance this season

By BRAD BAUGHMAN | For The Democrat

EDITOR’S NOTE: In addition to writing about sports for the Brown County Democrat, Brad Baughman is the varsity boys golf coach. He wrote this reflection about the team so far this season.

Before this season began, I figured we would be better than we were last season in terms of the scores we would post. Considering that last year our scores were uncommonly high and we were only able to claim a couple of wins, that prediction was not too difficult to justify.

We were returning all five of our golfers from the 2021 season, seniors Cooper VanNess and Jordan Burnett, juniors Bradley Arndt and Dylan Taylor, and sophomore Clay Austin. In addition, we were adding a couple freshmen, Wesley Arndt and Liam Cassiday, who had worked closely with the team as eighth graders, so I had every expectation for us to be better.

As we closed in on our official first practice date, I was surprised with the news that a pair of seniors who had no previous connection with our golf program were interested in playing. Both were skilled athletes who had achieved success in other sports, and both had picked up the game of golf in recent years.

One of the seniors, Kody Walsh, a four year standout with the football team, told me that golf had become his new passion. The other, Eli Sichting, a varsity tennis and baseball player, loved the game enough that he wanted to try to play both golf and baseball this spring.

Now armed with a deeper nine man roster, I knew that this season we would at least have enough players for there to be healthy competition within the squad. I still had no clue what kind of scores to expect. The only real known fact was that VanNess, last year’s most valuable golfer, would be our No. 1. The other spots would be up for grabs.

Three weeks into the season, I am simply ecstatic with this group’s performance and could not be more proud of them. Their work ethic, passion for the game, desire to improve, and cooperative spirit have been on display since day one.

Walsh, a real student of the game, has comfortably claimed the number two spot in the line up and is enjoying himself as he adjusts to the nuances of competitive golf. Sichting has juggled his dual sport responsibilities quite well and has found a home in the top five of our order.

We won our season opener, firing a 207, which was 10 strokes better than our season best last year and 24 strokes better than our 2021 nine hole season average. For the next week or two, we hovered around the 210 mark, and I was pleased with the consistency, but concerned that we seemed to have leveled off. I challenged each of them to find a way to cut three to five strokes off their scores and to work on the range and the practice green to make some productive changes.

They received the message and responded. This past week, we opened with a 195 in a home match with Edinburgh. When each team’s four low scores were computed, the match was tied at 195. To break that tie, each team’s fifth best score is counted, and we won the match on that tie-breaking score.

Three days later in another home match, we recorded four scores in the 40s and posted a 190 to defeat a quality Southwestern Shelby team. Four of our golfers recorded season best scores in the contest.

VanNess still maintains our No. 1 spot, but has recently been getting a healthy push from Walsh and Austin, who anchors the number three position. Wesley Arndt and Bradley Arndt are currently engaged in a tough battle for the fifth position in the line up, while Liam and Jordan continue to improve and could snag a top five spot before season’s end.

With a little more than half our season ahead of us, I know we will be challenged by stiff competition and unfamiliar courses, but I love the resolve of this group and believe they are up to the task. Whether we can shave another 17 strokes off in the next three weeks as we did in the first three weeks of the season remains to be seen.

I know it is cliche, and I know I say this every season, but my goal never waivers: I want us to be better in late April than we were in early April. I want us to be better in May than we were in April, and I want us to be playing at our best possible level when the sectional rolls around the first week of June.

I look forward to leading this fine group of young men for another five weeks and truly believe that as well as they have played their best golf is yet to come.