The Big East Conference might become more known for its individuals than its teams.
In order to be considered a team, a school must have three players on its roster.
That has become easier said than done lately as both Northern Nash and Nash Central won’t have enough players to field a team. The Knights don’t have a single golfer, and the Bulldogs only have two, although both have the talent to make some noise as individuls. Juniors Sara Joyce and Hannah Sasser both qualified for the 3-A East Regional last year as individuals, and Joyner advanced to the state championship as well.
“I told them that they have the potential to be in the top-10 and top-5 in the conference,” Bulldogs coach Randy Davis said. “Both girls have enough talent to excel, and they should blossom into some real good golfers.”
Davis said there are a lot of benefits to only having two golfers to coach rather than a squad of seven or eight golfers as in years past.
He can spend more time with each girl individually to iron out the kinks in a swing than he could if he had to manage eight golfers on a range.
However, he also admitted it might be easier on Joyner and Sasser, who can now focus solely on how they are performing without worrying about the team dynamic that can add more stress for talented golfers.
“It’s good that they don’t have to rely on other temmates,” Davis said. “It takes some pressure off them. If they go out and play well then they’ll advance. They don’t have to worry about the team element, they can just focus on their individual talent.”
Wilson Fike and Wilson Hunt will be the teams to catch once the season starts, but Southern Nash could make some noise as well with a top-tier individual of its own.
Senior Alexis Barrett is back for the Firebirds after missing out on the state championship by a single stroke last year.
Coach Jeff Flowers said he is expecting a lot out of his one senior this season after she came so close at the end of last year.
“She has always been physically talented,” Flowers said. “I’m hoping she maintains her focus hole-to-hole, stroke-to-stroke. She’s seen what she’s capable of and I think that gives her motivition and missing out on the state championship by a stroke should help as well.”
The other four players on the roster have a mixed bag of experience. Sophomores Mason Chamblee and Madilyn Godwin are young, but have a year of experience under their belt which should prove beneficial for the Firebirds with a roster that is completed by two first-time competitors. Flowers is high on both Chamblee and Godwin, saying the two could surprise a couple of people if they can continue to improve and build upon their play from last season.
Flowers said his team’s strength is the mental toughness it accrued last season. The Firebirds’ weak point might be playing consistently throughout the round, something that the whole team struggles with from time to time.
“It’s about hitting that good ball off the tee and realizing you have to do it 17 more times,” Flowers said. “I tell the girls, ‘One hole can’t kill you, but you can’t make a living off one hole either.’”
1. Hannah Sasser, Jr., Nash Central: Sasser has spent the past two summers at golf camps at Wake Forest and the extra time on the course should pay off now that she’s only worrying about herself.
2. Alexis Barrett, Sr., Southern Nash: Barrett missed out on qualifying for the state championship by one stroke last season and should use that as motivation to help the Firebirds compete in the Big East Conference.
3. Leah Hobgood, Sr., SouthWest Edgecombe: A two-time state qualifier, Hobgood is hoping to make a third straght trip to the state championship in her final season for the Cougars.
4. Sara Joyner, Jr., Nash Central: Joyner is coming off a state championship appearance and should use that experience to improve this season.
5. Mason Chamblee and Madilyn Godwin. So., Southern Nash: Firebirds coach Jeff Flowers is hoping both of these sophomores improve upon their freshman campaigns and make an impact in the Big East Conference.