The 2023-24 school year is just over a month old, but the time for postseason athletics has arrived.
Monday morning, golf steps into the spotlight when regional play commences across the Mountain State.
Postseason play on the links consists of four players for each team. The three best scores are combined to determine the overall total team score.
The top two teams in each region, per class, will qualify for the state tournament along with the top two individual scores that are not on the winning teams.
The State Tournament will be played on the Speidel Golf Course at Oglebay Park in Wheeling Oct. 3-4. The state tournament event is a two-day, 36-hole stroke play event.
The area teams from southern West Virginia will compete in the Region 3 tournament, respective to their classes.
The Class AAA tournament will be played at Big Bend Golf Course in Tornado, WV and will include Beckley, Greenbrier East, Princeton and Oak Hill.
The Spartans are the defending regional champions and the Flying Eagles are riding the momentum gained from winning the Coalfield Conference championship Tuesday.
Greenbrier East clearly has the talent to repeat this year led by senior Jake Honaker, freshman Isaac Hutchison and junior Isaac Cantrell. Honaker and Cantrell both played on the 2022 regional championship team.
Course familiarity, however, will not be in favor of the Spartans after the tournament was moved from last year’s sight, Edgewood Country Club, to Big Bend.
“We have not seen the course,” Greenbrier East head coach Doug Bicksler said prior to the Coalfield Conference Tournament. “We are going to try and sneak up there beforehand and at least get a look at it. Isaac Hutchison said he played there in a Callaway (Jr. Tour) event when he was about 10 (years old). He is the only one that has been on the course and that has been about four years.”
The Flying Eagles are arguably the hottest area team heading to the postseason led by two-time AAA Coalfield Conference individual champion Jonah Willson. Seniors Ian Thompson and Blake Nixon are strong players for Beckley, while freshman Tyler Stover has played well above his age.
George Washington has been the team to beat over the years in AAA Region 3 and the Patriots are once again a serious threat to claim the regional title.
Senior Ian Maynor has been the top player for Oak Hill and Dylan Canterbury has been strong all season for Princeton. Should the Red Devils and Tigers not qualify in the team event, both players will make a serious case for an individual spot in Wheeling.
Shady Spring is the defending AA Region 3 champion and will be looking to keep its string of state tournament appearances alive after winning the title in 2020 and finishing top-four in the last two seasons.
The strength for the Tigers has been balance and consistency this year. Sophomores Cooper Ward and Tyler Beard played well in the postseason last year and have built on that momentum in 2023. Junior Jack Williams and senior Nate Richmond have been steady as well giving the Tigers a strong four-man squad.
“Anyone of those guys can shoot the lowest score of the day. That is a good feeling to have,” Shady Spring head coach Greg Daniel said.
Herbert Hoover and Nicholas County will also be possible contenders for the regional title.
The Grizzlies finished second to the Tigers at the Coalfield Conference Tournament last week. Maddox Smallwood and Caleb Jarvis had a tough day last week, but both look to bounce back Monday. Cole Brown and Braden Brown earned first-team All-Coalfield Conference honors last week and have played well all season.
Westside senior Kerri-Anne Cook will be looking to earn the third trip to the state tournament of her career. Cook, who is the reigning W.Va. Jr. Am champion, earned all-state honors in her her two previous appearances on the Speidel Course. She also earned AA low medalist honors at the Coalfield Conference Tournament this year.
The Class AA Region 3 tournament will be played at Grandview Country Club. Cook set the course record from the red tees at Grandview earlier in the year with a 67 on the par-72 layout. While that is a great memory, Cook is well aware that Monday is a different day.
“I just try to stay out of my own head on stuff like that,” Cook said. “I had a good day that day, but (Monday) will be a new day.”
Summers County is the defending Class A Region 3 champion and the Bobcats will once again be the favorite to take home the title.
The senior threesome of twin brothers Sean Cooper and Brian Cooper, along with Marshall Legg will be seeking a third straight opportunity to play in Wheeling.
Sophomore Xavier Honaker has also been a top player for Summers. Honaker and the Cooper twins were all tied for the lowest Class A scores at the Coalfield Conference Tournament.
Along with winning the conference tournament for the second year in a row, the Bobcats also repeated as champions of the Dave Hicks Memorial Tournament played at Pipestem State Park Thursday.
Pipestem is the site of the Class A regional and also the home course for the Cats.
“The kids work up there and they play up there,” Summers County head coach Jerod Ewing said. “We have a lot of matches there and they like the speed of the greens. Hopefully we have a good time at regionals and we play well.”
Summers County finished sixth at the state tournament in 2021 and came home fourth last year.
Charleston Catholic was the regional runner up last year and the Irish should be in the mix again Monday.
Andrew Addair from River View and Dillon Dunz from Pocahontas County both played well at the Dave Hicks event and will be contenders for individual berths in Wheeling.