Tunkhannock Area head golf coach Andy Neely heads into the season after losing seven seniors, one of whom he called “one of the top three golfers in Tunkhannock High School history,” Tyler Faux.
But he also is looking forward to what he feels is, “A really nice size freshman class, a good influx of younger talent. We are hoping a few of them are good enough to start.”
Among those lost to graduation, the Tigers will miss Faux, Dylan Mislevy and Mariah Tague, who all were recognized as all stars last season.
“Dylan was a three year starter, and Tyler started every game in his four years. Mariah was the leader of the girls team. Missing her experience is a huge loss. Will we have holes to fill? That is a resounding yes. We can’t lose players like that and think it won’t create a problem. We just have to try to fill their spots,” said Neely.
Senior Coby Gilpin agreed, saying, “With the loss of the seniors from last year it’s going to be hard. I’ve always been able to rely on them to put up a good score and usually give us a lead by a few strokes. But I guess this year that Nick Budner and I’s job.”
Neely is expecting six or seven new faces this season, as well as three or four seniors with positive time from last year on the links. A few new senior girls will also don the golf team uniforms, proving the philosophy that golf is a lifelong sport.
Neely, who is assisted by Barb Sick and Thurston Sick, explained that he has been fortunate to get to know the younger players through the years, as PIAA does not allow junior high teams.
“I have been able to form relationships with them early on and be available to them if they had any questions. Shadowbrook has always been wonderful to our kids, allowing them to get on the course when they need to. Any instruction I can provide to the kids benefits everyone once they get to the freshman level,” said the 16-year coach.
The coaches will look to Budner and Gilpin to take the reins for the Tigers, as they were the three and four players behind Faux and Mislevy.
Neely said Budner and Gilpin were the top performers last season with Alex Yadlosky, and along with Rylee Cummings and Adrianna Gentle on the girls side, will be counted on to lead the next generation of Tigers.
On Aug. 8, the Tigers held a tryout of sorts, with the focus not on cutting players but evaluating them.
“We don’t want to cut our numbers down,” he said days before the event. “We are looking to find out who can go out and do 18 holes and know what they are doing. It also allows our staff to see who needs help on certain parts of their games. We can see what skills they have.”
Some of the players put those skills to use this summer at the local golf camps available at Shadowbrook and Stonehedge.
“It is fantastic for me, as a coach, and dynamite for the players to be able to get the experience and knowledge from these camps. There is a lot of talent in the pipeline. These kids will have their names in the papers when they get into high school, they are the ones that are continuing to work,” said Neely, who played high school golf for the Tigers.
Tunkhannock is coming off of another winning season, and were able to hold their own against everyone except local rival Dallas.
Neely feels the Mountaineers are “absolutely loaded” and will always be matches the team looks forward to in the season. As long as the Tigers can compete with Dallas, and play at their level, Neely will be happy.
But after Dallas, the talent level in the Wyoming Valley Conference has a steep drop off. According to Neely, a clump of teams are all in the same talent level and he expects a lot of close matches at the ninth hole, with matches not being decided an hour before the match is over.
Coach Neely also recounted how the girls team came on late in the season and ended on a winning streak.
“Our goal, as always, is to have a winning season and this year is no different. We have to hold our home course at Shadowbrook,” he said about this season. “We are hoping to increase our individual district qualifiers to four or five. Can we compete in playoffs? Can we compete at the levels at the other schools? Can we get one or two girls to individual districts? We have to meet these team and individual goals.”
The Tigers have been getting out all summer, with their coaches stressing that they won’t get any better sitting at home playing video games. Neely also wants them to be on the greens as much as possible so they understand how to handle frustrations- because golf can be frustrating- and realize that a bad shot should not make a bad round.
“They need to keep their swings short and simple because a complicated golf swing is not repeatable. Just have fun,” he explained.
With decent depth, the coach feels any of his players in the first through sixth spots can turn in a good score at any point. If one player struggles, he said, the older kids can cover up for them. The Tigers also are looking forward to the future and having a full four years to work with the fresh faces.
“One thing that really excites me about this season is just the amount of players that came out for the team,” said Gilpin. “It’s one of the largest teams that Tunkhannock has had in recent years and it gives me a certain level of comfort knowing that there will be players behind the starting six working hard to put up good scores.”
On the flip side, Neely is worried about the lack of experience.
“We lost a lot of match time with our seniors graduating. Individually, we don’t have a lot of players that qualified for individual districts and it is a different ball game at that level. We will see who steps up to this and doesn’t shy away.”
With very little room in the season, the opportunity for tournaments in the throws of the fall are almost non existent. But the Tigers will take six players to the Tryba Tournament at the Fox Hills Country Club on Monday, August 19 to kick off the season.
Gilpin will be playing n the Tryba Tournament this season, for his third and final round.
“For the last two years, I’ve gone into the tournament feeling that I had to beat everyone participating in the event to be even remotely successful,” he reflected. “But I feel like I set the bar too high for myself in the previous years. This year I’m just going to go out play my game and try to grind out a good score and end up finishing well in the leader boards.”
“We are also fortunate to have a great relationship with Towanda. We are one of ten teams invited to the Towanda Invitational and it is a lot of fun. It is a great way to start the year, it is the first Friday in the season, and it is a beautiful course. You really have to hit your shots there,” Neely offered.
“Our job as coaches is to make sure they know golf is a lifelong game,” he advised. “We can play golf into our 80s if we are lucky. The lessons learned in golf can translate into life, and that is an appreciation we are trying to foster.”
The Tigers head to Towanda this Friday for the Invitational, and host Wilkes Barre on Thursday, August 22.
Roster: Seniors Alex Yadlosky, Nicholas Budner, Paul Binner, Coby Gilpin, and Riley Cummings. Juniors Will Colbenson, Owen Tench, and Chris Trochak. Sophomores Brady Lukasavage, Tyler Minich, Jacob Macmillan, Kieran Curley, and Adriana Gentle. Freshmen Michael Yadlosky, Chase Wenrich, John Burke, Ethan Tench, Dayton Kandrovy, Josh Brown, Charlie Welles, Brianna Grow, and Ashley Buckley.
Schedule: Aug. 16 at Towanda; Aug. 19 at Tryba Tournament, TBA; Aug. 22 vs. Wilkes-Barre Area; Aug. 26 at Dallas; Aug. 28 vs. Pittston; Aug. 30 at Crestwood; Sept. 3 vs. Hazleton; Sept. 5 at Nanticoke; Sept. 9 vs. Wyoming Valley West; Sept. 11 at Wilkes-Barre Area; Sept. 13 vs. Dallas; Sept. 16 at Pittston; Sept. 23 Predistricts at Pittston; Sept. 30 Districts at Pittston, TBA.
All matches begin at 3:30 unless noted otherwise.