Regular season high School golf matches are most often played as a nine-hole contest.
Regional and state tournament play, however, are 18-hole events that are more mentally and physically grinding.
Tuesday morning, area golfers will get an early taste of the postseason when the Coalfield Conference Golf Tournament is played on the Cobb Course at the Resort at Glade Springs.
Once again the field consists of teams that have a good shot at a state championship and players that can win the individual state title next month in Wheeling as well.
“I think it will be really fun again this year,” Beckley senior standout Jonah Willson said. “There will be a lot of good local competition at the event and I think we have a good chance of winning it. We just have to shoot a good score.”
Willson has been on fire of late with three low medalist honors to his credit in the last two weeks. He is also the reigning conference Class AAA individual champion carding a 74 last year on the par 72 layout.
“I have been striking it really well lately,” Willson said. “The key for me has been putting.”
Truth be told, the Flying Eagles as a whole enter the tournament playing their best golf of the season.
Flanking Willson has been fellow seniors Ian Thompson and Blake Nixon, along with freshman Tyler Stover.
“Early in the year they weren’t quite playing up to standards that we thought they would play. Throughout the year, everyone of them got better,” head coach William York said. “We have had some good practices and all of a sudden, everybody feels like we can do this.”
Although the Flying Eagles are legitimate contenders for the AAA conference title they will have solid competition from defending champions Greenbrier East and a Princeton squad that has been very consistent this year.
The Spartans have taken a slightly different approach to the regular season playing more 18-hole matches this season to better prepare for the postseason.
Jake Honaker, Isaac Hutchison and Isaac Cantrell will represent East Tuesday with the fourth spot being determined Monday in a playoff.
Honaker and Cantrell were both first team All-Conference in 2022 and also helped lead the Spartans to the state tournament.
Hutchison is a freshman this year, but has been highly successful on the Callaway Jr. Tour.
The fourth spot will be among sophomore Nate Dolin and freshman Sam Roshau.
“We have played very well, but we have had a couple of not quite up to par scores recently where we have played some different (and unfamiliar) courses,” head coach Doug Bicksler said. “I think we have a great shot at repeating, but it’s golf. Everybody has to come to play.”
Dylan Canterbury has been the No. 1 player for the Tigers, but after that it gets a little murky. However, it is murky in a good way. The tough part for head coach Scott Miller will be narrowing the group down to the four that can compete Tuesday and in postseason play.
Determining his postseason group will likely involve a process of letting the players battle it out in a team qualifier.
Virgil Ellison and Joe Flanigan have low medalist honors to their credit this season and Princeton has also received solid play from Eli Bailey.
Oak Hill is a sleeper in the AAA race with senior Ian Maynor as a solid contender for the individual title among the big schools.
“I have had a couple pretty good rounds this year and won a couple of matches,” Maynor said. “I have struggled in a few, but still finished in the top-five. My game has been pretty consistent. I love the (conference tournament). It is one of those 18-hole matches that we don’t have a lot of. It is a fun experience. I really like the course and I am glad I get to go play.”
Shady Spring is the defending AA champions and even though the Tigers lost last year’s overall low medalist, Tanner Vest, to graduation, Shady has still been a force to be reckoned with this year.
Sophomores Cooper Ward and Tyler Beard lead Shady and earned All-Conference honors last year. The dynamic duo also helped guide the Tigers to the regional championship title in 2022.
Toss in excellent play from basketball standout Jack Williams, Ian Crouse and Nate Richmond and its easy to why Shady is a state tournament contender again this year.
“We have about six or seven players on this team that could shoot the lowest score of the day,” Shady Spring head Greg Daniel said. “It’s a good feeling to have. They realize it will come down the best four players that will go (to the postseason), but they all have the same chance.”
Nicholas County has played well in AA this year and will have something to say Tuesday, as well as in regional play.
Maddox Smallwood and Braden Brown were both All-Conference members last year.
Westside senior Kerri-Anne Cook will be a name to watch in the Class AA individual battle. Cook earned first team All-Conference last year and is the reigning W.Va. Jr. Am champion.
Summers County is the defending Class A conference champion and the Bobcats have qualified for the state tournament each of the last two seasons.
The Cats will once again be the favorite to win the title Tuesday.
Jerod Ewing’s team is a veteran group led by senior twin brothers Sean and Brian Cooper, Xavier Honaker, Christian Dillon and Marshall Legg.
Sean Cooper was the Class A low medalist on the Cobb Course last year.
“I think we are in a good spot. They have worked really hard this summer,” Ewing said. “We have been young for a while now. Seems like we have only had one senior for the last four or five years. Now we have seniors and they all know what to expect now.”
This year there will also be an 18-hole girls tournament. Conference officials have invited the top-eight female scorers not included in their teams top four players to compete with the ladies already in the top four.
Following the golf tournament there will also be a putting and chipping skills challenge.