After the graduations of several outstanding golfers over the past several seasons, the Lancaster-Lebanon League may be in a youth movement of sorts entering the 2019 campaign.
In fact, if the recently completed Lancaster Country Junior Golf Tour’s season is any indication, underclassmen may lead the way.
And that may not be a bad thing, several league coaches say.
“I think it is a year in transition, based on the Junior Tour, where we had very few rising seniors who were playing,” said Hempfield coach Jon Chronister, who is also director of the LCJGT.
“I’m not sure scores will be as strong as they once were,” he continued, “but in some ways that’s going to make it more exciting.”
Cocalico coach Chip Kappesser agrees.
“It’s not the depth of kids (returning),” he said. “You could have five to eight kids shooting good numbers. There are kids that will shoot 72 one week, then 78-79 the next.
“It’s one kid one week and another kid another week. Now, there is kids all over that can win. Some kids at some other schools may have a chance to compete now.”
Some of those underclassmen include Lampeter-Strasburg’s Matthew Wilson, Lancaster Catholic’s Jack Novis, Cocalico’s Trey Rios and Ephrata’s Jeet Patel — all sophomores.
Hempfield’s Sawyer Marten and defending Lebanon County High School champion Simon Domencic of Annville-Cleona are also 10th graders looking for big seasons.
Solanco freshman Logan Wagner raised some eyebrows during the LCJGT season, recently capped by Lancaster’s big victory in the War of Roses.
“Sawyer is only a sophomore and he’s got to be one of the favorites to lead Section one in scoring average,” Chronister said. “There are some young golfers that could do quite well this season.”
The season begins Monday, as Northern Lebanon hosts the season’s first official match, as Section Three teams gather at Pine Meadows.
Several upperclassmen are hoping to close their high school careers on a high note. They include Manheim Township’s Hamilton McNaughton, Warwick’s Clayton Hartman and Lancaster Catholic’s Liam Badger.
McNaughton, a member of the Blue Streaks’ 2018 District Three Class 3A team champs, joins junior Connor Strine and Graham Calhoun — another sophomore — as Township tries to repeat its district and Section One titles.
But it likely won’t be easy.
“Township is going to be strong, but even their numbers are down,” Chronister said. “It could be a very interesting transitional year, even with my team. I just have to look at it differently and handle it differently.”
Although each section has favorites, because of the youth, the league standings may look different, team and individual-wise.
“There's a lot of kids that are learning and playing. There’s not one kid that will win week in and week out,” Kappesser said.
“Other coaches I have talked to have lost seniors and other kids. I think the league is going to be wide open this year,” added Lancaster Mennonite coach Corey Wenger, whose Blazers earned the District Three Class 2A team title last season and a state tournament berth.
Wenger has one of the most experienced squads returning, led by individual state qualifier Jonathan Glick, now a junior who tied for 14th at the PIAA championships last fall.
“He’s had a good summer and has played a lot of good, competitive golf. I think his game is sharp,” Wenger said of Glick. “He’s only going to be a junior this year; my other four starters are seniors.
“We got a taste of it last year. I think that can help a tremendous amount. They understand how that competition builds as you go from league, to districts, to regionals, to states. They were outmatched at states, but seeing what level they have to bring it to will help.”
Juniors Ammala Moua of Cocalico and Lampeter-Strasburg’s Katherine Lapinsky, along with Lancaster Mennonite senior Madison Bailey and Phoebe Stover, a sophomore at Lancaster Country Day, are among the top returners on the girls’ side.
All four qualified for the PIAA regionals tournaments last season.