Howard County golf has officially arrived.
Last fall, just eight years removed from shedding the club label and becoming an official varsity sport, county golf teams and individuals combined to win an unprecedented three state championships.
Marriotts Ridge's Bennett Buch set a scoring record on his way to the boys title, Atholton's Bryana Nguyen captured the girls title and Marriotts Ridge rolled its way to the 2A/1A team championship. And, for a little extra icing on top, Howard County produced three of the top four boys overall and three of the top seven girls.
"It was one of those special years where everything kind of came together and I think it shows just how far the sport has come here in the county in a fairly short period of time," said River Hill coach Matt Graves. "Every year, more and more kids are playing year-round and it's really starting to show in our results as a county at the state level."
The only question now is, what does this year's group have in store for an encore?
"I know for us, the success of last season has definitely carried over," Marriotts Ridge coach Mark Dubbs said. "There's a buzz around the team ... it's been there all summer as the kids have been playing together. They're excited about picking up where they left off."
On paper, the prospect of another stellar regular season and postseason for Marriotts Ridge, and the county as a whole, certainly looks promising.
The Mustangs' boys' squad brings back the Player of the Year in Buch, who finished second at the county championship tournament before winning districts and states as a freshman last fall. Backing him up will be returner Michael Dorsch (23.8 points per match), along with a trio of impact freshmen expected to hit the ground running.
Glenelg, with returners Steven Segrist (25.8 ppm) and Young Lee (25.3), will certainly also be in the mix for a boys team title. Centennial, behind all-county performer Matt McShane (23.1), and Atholton have firepower returning as well.
"I think for the boys it's going to be one of those three-tier type of seasons," Graves said. "There's a few teams with a lot of talent up top, some rebuilding and improved teams jockeying for position in the middle and then a fairly evenly matched group at the bottom."
But as talented as the boys field has the potential to be, the girls side of things is perhaps even more loaded. Of the 12 female players that were selected to one of the all-county squads last fall, 11 are back this season.
Nguyen (26.8 points per match), Marriotts Ridge's Rachel Lee (24.6) and Oakland Mills' Samyra Lewis (23.0) are the class of the group after all three finished among the top seven at the state championship tournament in 2012.
"We're quickly becoming the preeminent county for girls golf in the state and I really believe that's a reflection of how much Howard County has promoted it the last few years," Atholton coach Scott Robinson said.
Atholton is the defending regular season champions and the Raiders bring back their top three of Nguyen, Amanda Petersen and Avni Johnson. Marriotts Ridge brings back its top three as well, with Marissa Davey and Ariel Biegel joining Lee from a team that finished in second place.
The wild card may be the addition of freshman Lauren Kim to Marriotts Ridge's line-up. Kim has an accomplished junior golf resume and is expected to immediately be one of the county's top players.
Wilde Lake, Mt. Hebron and Glenelg rounded out the top five a year ago and should be right there once again.
New coaches are in place at three schools. Scott Osborne takes over at Hammond, Stephen Lee at Centennial and Josh McGoun at Howard.
The county will once again operate under the Stableford scoring system during the regular season, with players being awarded five points for an eagle, four for a birdie, three for a par, two for a bogey and one for a double bogey.
The only significant rules change involves the county's pace of play policy, with the goal being to get groups of four playing nine holes in as close to 2 hours and 15 minutes as possible.
In accordance with the new regulations, players are being required to hit their shots no more than 40 seconds apart from one another and to complete each hole in no more than 15 minutes.
Penalties will be assessed for individuals or groups that fail to comply.
"Hopefully it will teach the kids to focus on playing ready golf," Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne said. "Honestly, I see no reason why it shouldn't fall right into place and ultimately be something that's very good for the game."
Here's a look around the county as the teams get set to begin the regular season Aug. 22 (for expanded capsules on each team, visit us online at explorehoward.com):
2012 boys record: 5-6; 2012 girls: 11-0
Top boys: Senior Josh Lewis; juniors Chris Robinson and Max Rosenthal; sophomore Nick Osterman.
Top girls: Seniors Avni Johnson and Bryana Nguyen; juniors Madison Fields and Amanda Petersen.
What you need to know: As a program, the Raiders bring back the bulk of the boys and girls squads from a season ago. The top three boys scorers are back, with Lewis (21.5-point average), Rosenthal (20.0) and Robinson (19.7) all finishing among the county’s top 20 scorers a year ago. “The potential is definitely there for a big year for this group,” coach Scott Robinson said.
The girls finished last season undefeated on the way to a county championship and that entire group returns. Nguyen is the reigning state champion and a three-time Player of the Year. Petersen was fourth in the county with 19 points a match last year and Johnson was seventh at 13.9. Expectations are once again high, with a showdown with Marriotts Ridge on Sept. 11 at Turf Valley likely to decide this year’s regular season county champ.
2012 boys: 9-2; 2012 girls: 3-8
Top boys: Seniors Mike Humphrey and Danny Sterenberg; juniors Matt McShane and Robert Hunter.
Top girls: Senior Maggie Ma; junior Kaitlyn Wojtanowski; sophomore Alice Kuan.
What you need to know: The Eagles graduated four-time all-county golfer Connor Flach (26.4 points per match), who is now playing at Loyola University Maryland, and Sahil Mehta (20.8) has transferred out of state. But the cupboard is certainly not bare. McShane was one of the county’s top 10 guys last season and Mike Humphrey (19.5 ppm) has a wealth of varsity experience under his belt. Sterenberg and Hunter have both greatly improved.
The girls team finished last season in the bottom third of the standings and will be leaning on returners Wojanowski (7.5 ppm), Kuan (6.6) and Ma to all increase their averages in order to improve on that mark overall. Samantha Sterenberg rounds out the line-up.
2012 boys: 9-2; 2012 girls: 7-4
Top boys: Seniors Drew Marcoux and Max Hewig; junior Steven Segrist; sophomore Young Lee.
Top girls: Senior Ashley Frost; junior Maddie Davis.
What you need to know: The good news is that the Gladiators return their top two boys, Lee (25.3-point average) and Segrist (25.8), and they are among the county’s best players. The bad news is that the team’s next four players from a season ago graduated. That means that the team’s success this season will hinge heavily upon the back end of the rotation. Marcoux and Hewing have limited experience, but have improved. There are also a couple freshmen that could see time.
The girls, meanwhile, have their sights set on improving on last year’s 7-4 record. All of the team’s top players from a year ago are back, including a second-team all-county player in Frost. She averaged 12.3 points each time out as a junior. Davis was second on the team with a 5.8 average a year ago and coach Chris Beil says she should see her average jump up close to double digits. Consistency from the other two girls on the team would make the Gladiators a threat for a top three spot.
2012 boys: 0-11; 2012 girls: 0-11
Top boys: Junior Logan Mitchell; sophomore David Edwards; freshman Patrick McDonald.
Top girls: Seniors Emily Creighton, Betsy Frekot, Amber Ginsburg and Emily Morton; junior Carolyn Pangburn.
What you need to know: After the Golden Bears went winless last season on both the boys and girls sides, new coach Scott Osborne says the team is going back to basics. “With swings, attitudes toward the game … we are starting from the beginning,” he said. “This is still a very inexperienced group that is still learning.” McDonald, a freshman, may very well be the top player for the boys at the onset and Osborne is hoping to see continued improvement from everyone going forward.
The girls have five players that are all roughly all around the same skill level. Creighton has the most experience, having been on the team since she was a sophomore.
2012 boys: 6-5; 2012 girls: 1-9-1
Top boys: Seniors Max Balter, Sean Crawford and Steven Park; juniors Greg Cherry and Nolan Dunnigan.
Top girls: Seniors Jaclyn Fallira and Jasmine Kelly; freshman Harper Lurie.
What you need to know: The boys squad is coming off back-to-back 6-5 campaigns and the three seniors were all important pieces of the 2012 team. Crawford has showcased the ability to shoot in the low 20s somewhat consistently and finished tied for 16th at last year’s county championship tournament. With the experience at the top, along with up-and-comers in Cherry and Dunnigan, new coach Josh McGoun said tryouts were extremely competitive. “I was planning on only keeping six guys, but ended up keeping seven because the skill level was that high … I’ve been impressed thus far,” he said.
Fallaria made great strides as the season went along last year and peaked with a top 15 finish at the county tournament. She’ll likely lead the way. Lurie has had lessons and has a nice foundation in place, while Kelly is still rather new to the game.
2012 boys: 2-9; 2012 girls: 3-6-2
Top boys: Seniors Trevor Appler and Joe Grabowski; juniors Will Bartolotta and Evan Spotte-Smith.
Top girl: Sophomore Julie Reboullet.
What you need to know: The Lightning struggled last season, but the good news is that every member of the team is back and has improved according to coach Bob Hawthorne. Appler was the team leader as a junior and scored in double figures a team-high three times. He and Bartolotta have the potential to push their averages into the teens if they continue on their current trajectory.
The girls team has three players out and they have a combined one year of playing experience. Reboullet, a sophomore, will be asked to assume the top spot after playing in the third spot last year behind Courtney Sample (9.4-point average) and Abigail Caspar (8.5).
2012 boys: 9-2; 2012 girls: 10-1
Top boys: Senior Michael Dorsch; sophomore Bennett Buch; freshmen Jackson Courtney, Nick Mejia and John Szymanski.
Top girls: Seniors Ariel Biegel, Marissa Davey and Rachel Lee; freshman Lauren Kim.
What you need to know: Considering the amount of talent and success at the state level that the Mustangs have had over the years, it’s rather amazing that the boys program has still yet to win a county title. That drought very well could end this season thanks to a young roster that is brimming with talent. Buch is one of the county and state’s top players, having added a Maryland Junior Amateur title to his resume over the summer. With him and Dorsch returning after playing big roles in last year’s state team title, along with the addition of immediate impacts from Courtney, Mejia and Szymanski, Marriotts Ridge has five guys capable of averaging in the 20s.
Aspirations are incredibly high for the girls team as well. The squad brings back its top three players, all seniors that are three-year starters, and have added an elite player in Kim. As an incoming freshman, she already finds herself ranked among the top 300 golfers in the country by the Polo Junior Golf Rankings. The potential is there for this group to break the regular-season girls team record for points in a match (82), which was set by Marriotts Ridge’s squad in 2010.
2012 boys: 5-6; 2012 girls: 7-3-1
Tops boys: Senior Zach Stevens; junior Patrick Hardy; sophomore Jack Montgomery.
Top girls: Senior Hayley Baker; sophomore Josephine Jung.
What you need to know: The Vikings’ boys were hit hard by graduation, losing three starters that averaged over 16 points a match in 2012. The lone holdover from the top four is Hardy, who posted an average of 17.3 over six rounds during the regular season. Coach Don Walters is counting on continued improvement from his back end in order to maintain a spot among the county’s middle tier.
For the girls, expectations are high. Bringing back all-county golfers in Baker and Jung certainly provides a nice little one-two punch. Baker was sixth in the county in scoring average (15.3) as a junior and is “striking the ball really well,” according to Walters. Jung also appears poised to make a positive jump after averaging 11.4 as a freshman. Walters says a top three finish is the goal.
2012 boys: 1-10; 2012 girls: 3-8
Top boys: Senior Jackson Bailey; sophomore Colin Steplowski.
Top girl: Senior Samyra Lewis.
What you need to know: The Scorpions are once again hurting in the numbers department. The boys have just four guys out, with Bailey serving as the team leader. He is a four-year player that has the potential to score in the mid-teens on a regular basis, having averaged 14 points a match last fall. Steplowski is also a returner.
The girls team has just one player on the roster, but Lewis is as good as they come. She has finished in the top 10 at the state meet in back-to-back seasons and has the ability to outscore several county girls teams by herself on a good day. She never scored fewer than 19 points in any regular season match last season.
2012 boys: 5-6; 2012 girls: 5-6
Top boys: Seniors Matt Dorn and Trent Teodori; junior Brandon Yang; sophomore Daniel Kim.
Top girl: Sophomore Erica Caporaletti.
What you need to know: The Gators kept more players on their roster last year than any other county team and coach Karen Wolfe says that could pay dividends this season. She has eight returning boys, including Dorn and Teodori who played in more than half the team’s matches and averaged over 14 points. “Having guys that are accustomed to what we do, it’s made things a lot easier,” she said. “They are taking more responsibility in also helping bring our younger players along.” Kim and Yang are both vastly improved and should earn regular spots.
The girls lost their two leading scorers from a year ago — Tabbi Gaverth and Tina Howard. That means Caporaletti will be asked to step up as a leader after averaging 7.9 points a match as a freshman. Wolfe says she expects Caporaletti’s average to improve several points after spending the summer playing in tournaments and taking lessons over the winter. There are five total girls on the team.
2012 boys: 4-7; 2012 girls: 5-5-1
Top boys: Senior Brett Gold; freshman Derek Gold.
Top girl: Junior Lexie Hayward.
What you need to know: The boys slipped under .500 last year, but Brett Gold continued his ascent into the upper echelon of county golfers. His 20.4-point average put him among the top 20 boys last season and he has the talent to push into the top 10 as a senior. His younger brother, Derek, is coming along quickly according to coach Matt Graves. Other returners on the boys team are Kevin Green and Andrew Wang.
The girls have just three girls out for the team with Hayward serving as the leader. She averaged 8.6 points last fall and will be tasked with making up some of the points lost with the graduation of Kendra Rosnik (10.5 average).
2012 boys: 11-0; 2012 girls: 8-2-1
Top boys: Seniors Joe Boccher and Pierce Brooks.
Top girls: Senior Mikala Teachman; sophomores Arianna Andres and Tyler Teachman.
What you need to know: After graduating their top four players, last year’s undefeated county champions find themselves in complete rebuilding mode. Only Boccher has any kind of significant match experience among the returners. He averaged 17.3 points a match as a sophomore before only playing in two matches last fall. Among the new additions, Brooks is showing the most potential in the early going.
The girls, on the other hand, are returning three of their top four. Mikala and Tyler Teachman each made second-team all county last year and are likely to post double-digit averages for a second straight year. Andres has improved after playing in six of eight matches as a freshman. The Wildecats finished alone in third place last year and coach Diane Caporaletti likes their chances of competing for that spot once again.