|NTL GOLF: LONGTIME ATHENS COACH BELIEVES WILDCATS WILL MAKE RUN AT QUALIFYING FOR DISTRICTS IN 2018 (2018-08-21)
By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — Numbers remain high for the Athens golf team, and longtime coach Jeff Novak believes the Wildcats could make a run at qualifying for Districts for the first time since 2015.
“We have 16 kids out this year,” he said. “We only have two newcomers, so we have a lot of experienced golfers back.
“We have five of our top six returning, and we had six or seven kids who had memberships here (at Shepard Hills), and they played a lot of golf this summer.
“We just need to get out and play now,” said Novak. “The rain has been our worst enemy this year, but it’s a level playing field. The rain has effected everyone.”
To qualify for the District 4 Championships, the Wildcats will have to play .500 during the season.
“We weren’t hit as hard by graduation as Sayre, Mansfield, and Towanda,” said Novak. “I’d really like to see our experience propel us into being a district-qualifying team. We haven’t done that in three years; that way all the kids on the team can play in the individual tournament at districts.”
Senior Nate Kennedy, who advanced to Regionals last year, is the Wildcats’ No. 1 golfer, and senior Dylan Krise seems to have solidified his spot as No. 2.
“Dylan Krise’s scoring average dropped 20 strokes last year,” said Novak. “I don’t expect the same type of drop this year, but if he make half that improvement this year, he could qualify for Districts on his own; that’s my hope for him.”
Novak believes a pair of sophomores could be players to watch in 2018.
“Kyler Setzer’s swing is really nice. If he gets some confidence in his swing, his game is going to come along quickly.
“Aidan Westbrook is an athlete, and he has a very nice swing,” said Novak. “He just has to put everything together, and he could be one to keep an eye on.”
Novak believes he has as many as 11 golfers that could find their way into the top six this season.
“It was very competitive at (Monday’s) qualifier,” he said. “I think beyond Nate (Kennedy) and Dylan (Krise), the rest of our team will be fighting for those four starting spots. There’s a lot of competition for those final spots, and that will only make everyone better.
“I could see four or five other kids (other than Tuesday’s starting six) getting a start or two this season.”
Also in the top eight for the Wildcats are Chase Minnick, Brady Smith, Ben Ellis, and Michael Cook.
On the NTL: “Wellsboro and Cowanesque Valley are going to fight for the league title,” said Novak. “I don’t think anybody will touch them.”
The NTL golf season teed off Tuesday morning at The Club at Shepard Hills.
IN PHOTO: Athens senior Nate Kennedy. … PHOTO BY TIM BIRNEY.
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