Leopards golf team sets sights on states

September 01, 2008|By Tim Koelble

The Smithsburg golf team won the Class 1A-2A Maryland state championship in in 2005.

There's no reason to believe the Leopards can't make a push to add another championship this season.

Juniors Haeun Lee and Chris Bushey are two of the top golfers in Washington County and they happen to be on the same team - two good reasons Smithsburg coach Dan Neff might crack a smile when talking about his team.

"Our goal every year is obviously to make the state tournament," said Neff.

The Leopards have a chance to go one better this year by winning both team and individual titles. The last time that happened in the 1A/2A tournament was 1998, when Jimmy Cunningham won the boys individual title while leading Walkersville to the team crown.

Junior Haeun Lee is a solid contender for the girls title after a second-place finish last season.

"We've got two top players, but the key to the whole as a team is the No. 3 and 4 players," said Neff.


That's where the pressure will usually fall on the shoulders of A.J. Minnich and Brandon Keefer.

Lee whirled through junior golf this summer with tournament victories in the WACO, Tri-State and Masters, while Bushey was in the top five in most summer tournaments among the boys.

"Last year was a learning curve for Haeun playing on that level at the state," said Neff. "She was awakened that there are other good players around the state."

Since coming onto the scene at the beginning of her sophomore season, Lee's strong suit has been her short game. She still needs to improve on longer shots.

"She is now able to make key shots this year that she didn't last year," said Neff.

Bushey provides an additional solid scoring resource for the Leopards.

"He's got ice water in his veins nothing rattles him," said Neff. "He's got so much confidence in his game. He finds a way to put the ball in the hole."

It's the type of outlook a team needs to go a long way. If the supporting cast can make things add up, Smithsburg could chart its own course on the 1A/2A level.

"We've got the experience," said Neff. "It's a matter of putting things together when it counts. And if we get to the states as a team, I like our chances over two days."


Veteran coach Greg Henry is looking down the road as the season progresses. "Right now, we're a good driving-range team," he said. The Warriors have depth down to the 10th player and will look to improve by the time county and district tournaments arrive.

Broadfording Christian

Coach Jon Pryor had three veterans graduate and has a very, very young team. The Christiansen boys - Peter, Daniel and Matt - played summer tournaments and should help lead the Lions into the future. "We're ultra young with lots of teaching to do," said Pryor. "We'll win a match or two."

Clear Spring

The Blazers could be this year's surprise team. The players have new guidance under Darren Smith, former head pro at Fountain Head Country Club. With T.J. Socks, Adam Lipella, Brandon Grimm and newcomer Jordan Thurber, the Blazers could lower their team scores by 20-25 shots.

North Hagerstown

Coach Joel Rice has some experienced players, beginning with Becky Gossard, who is regaining her strength after some health issues. Kyle Walters, Jordan Wivell and Conner Spessard are among those who hope to push the Hubs above .500.


After the 1-2 punch of Haeun Lee and Chris Bushey, the Leopards want to round out their team effort and rely heavily on A.J. Minnich and Brandon Keefer. "(A.J.) played in a lot of summer tournaments and has improved and Keefer got behind some, but he is beginning to catch up."

South Hagerstown

Coach Dale Beard has three seniors - Bobby Asper, Matt Rummel and Joey Miller - he expects will carry the Rebels as far as possible. Otherwise, South is young, with three playing prep golf for the first time. "We'll also build for the future," said Beard.

St. James

Coach Karl Yergey is hoping to pick up some wins in a tough Mid Atlantic Conference, where the Saints were winless last year. Yergey has two promising underclassmen - sophomore Ryan Doyle and freshman Alex Beckel - to support Jamie Phillips.

St. Maria Goretti

Veteran teaching professional Bill Hoffman is the new coach at Goretti and started the year with a goal of breaking 180 as a team. The Gaels are led by freshman Christian Gros and junior Emily Steiner, and need contributions from Dan Rost and J.R. Everett.


Coach Darryl Eichelberger says the "sky is the limit" for his team. Along with Zach Weber, the Wildcats have juniors Adam Eichelberger and Chris Karr and freshman Ryan Cordard.

Players to watch

Haeun Lee, Smithsburg - 2007 Herald-Mail Player of the Year finished second in the Maryland state tournament. Dominated junior golf this summer with wins in Tri-State, WACO and Masters juniors.

Chris Bushey, Smithsburg - Herald-Mail All-County first team in 2007. Bushey played a ton of golf over the summer in tournaments and has experienced a growth spurt in the past year. He has a legitimate chance to be the top boys player in the county.

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