Severna Park coach Dick Barto doesn't think there's a golf team in the county that can beat his, but that doesn't mean he thinks his Falcons are unbeatable.
Barto has been around the sport long enough to know that the best player or best team doesn't always finish atop the leader board.
"We can beat ourselves, and in golf that is very possible," said Barto, who was named The Baltimore Sun's Golf Coach of the Year last season. "The potential is there and it has been for some time, but for the past few years, Arundel has been a little ahead of us and now we're the team to beat."
Senior Andy Alcorn, last year's individual champion in the county tournament, returns for the Falcons, along with fourth-year senior Adam Kensky. Junior Jim Travers, sophomore Adam Huong and senior Cynthia Mann give Severna Park the depth they will need in the postseason, including the state tournament, Oct. 23-24 at the University of Maryland.
"Right now, we're playing real well, but I'm not sure how we will do at the state level," said Barto. "If they all play well, we'll be there, but all four have to play good both days. One bad hole is enough to put you out of it."
Arundel, which claimed last year's regular-season championship, lost Paul Wills, last season's Golfer of the Year, and Scott Carpenter, but the Wildcats return three of the four players they had when they won their second straight state title in 1992, including seniors Eric Furtado and Randy Clark.
"I see them improving as the season progresses, but whether it will be soon enough is entirely up to them," said Wildcats coach Carol Nutt. "The talent is there but they have to believe in it."
Broadneck coach Jim Morris doesn't expect his team to win the A Division, but he sees potential.
Leading the Bruins are Brian Lawton, Richard Zwolinski, Pat Ware and Colleen Keating, who narrowly missed qualifying for district play last season.
Annapolis seventh-year coach Joe Martin picked up a ringer when junior Jon Ahlgren, an exchange student from Sweden, enrolled. Ahlgren, who has a 2-handicap, will occupy the Panthers' No. 1 spot, followed by junior Jim Goddard, senior Ian Massenburg and sophomore Judd Carstens.
"We should match up pretty well with Severna Park and Arundel," said Martin, whose team finished third in district play last year and 12th in states. "We may end up first or second if we can get our putting together."
John Irvine expects another rebuilding year at Chesapeake, where he has run the golf program for 19 seasons. The Cougars are led by first-year senior Mike Smith, a lacrosse player who will take over the No. 1 slot; junior Tim Daugherty; senior captain Ryan Murphy, and sophomore Ryan Howard, Chesapeake's low scorer last year as a freshman.
Glen Burnie had its biggest turnout for golf in school history but coach John Himmelheber isn't clearing away any space in the school's trophy case just yet.
Himmelheber has promising freshmen in Brooks Slater and Dave Wineke and veterans Greg Cohen, Shaunn Chapman and Billy Smithers return with the hope of lifting Glen Burnie out of the basement of the B Division.
Markus Sheffield, a four-year golfer at Meade, is the lone veteran on a team comprised primarily of underclassmen.
Meade coach John O'Neill said Sheffield has shown improvement throughout his career and hopes to see him enjoy success when the county tournament rolls around on Oct. 16 at Eisenhower Golf Course.
North County is back in the B Division, where coach Nelson Martin believes his team belongs. The Knights struggled in the A Division last fall after winning the B Division title in 1993.
Paul Yesker, a first-year player, will be No. 1 for the Knights, and senior Aaron Walenga, a four-year player, is at No. 2. Martin sees potential in sophomore Dallas Simmons and freshman Lorie Koch.
Sophomore Garrett Ohm is in the top spot for Bruce Lawton's Old Mill team, followed by seniors Bryce Nalepa and Jaclyn Surles, who won the girls title at last year's county tournament.
Filling out the Patriots' top seven are junior Brad Burns, sophomore Steve Bogdon, freshman Andrew Birgel and senior Mark Tschechtelin.
South River has freshmen Jeff Rice and Robert Jones, while Southern has seniors Keith Boggs, Kevin Porter and Jeff Green and junior Richard Finamore.