By Susan Jenior
It was not that long ago when the girls golf teams in Portage County included only three programs: Aurora, Kent Roosevelt and Southeast.
Girls teams in the county have now grown to seven, competing in four different conferences.
The girls have been honing their skills in tournaments throughout the summer, including Brooklyn Millard, of Aurora, competing in AJGA events, Gracyn Vidovic (Aurora), Ashlyn Leavery and Adrianna Mineo (Kent) both competing in NOPGA events and the Junior Portage County Amateur and most of the Southeast lineup competing in the Olde Dutch Mill tourney, Greatest Golfer of the Valley and the Junior Portage County Amateur.
Samantha Clark (Streetsboro), Anna Picicco (Kent) and Alex Biggin (Rootstown) joined many of the girls competing at the Junior Portage County Amateur.
Madolyn Kost, of Kent, qualified for the International Optimist tournament in Florida.
Yes, girls golf is growing, with several boys teams boasting girls on the varsity as well.
Here is a preview of the Portage County teams as they open play for the 2023 season.
Coach: Collin McEndree, 1st year.
Home Course: Club Walden, Aurora.
Conference: Suburban League.
Last Year: Advanced to the district tournament.
Returning Letterwinners: Manisha Girn, Meena Kraus, Brooklyn Millard, Nina Newkirk, Gracyn Vidovic.
Depth: Brooke Barry, Mackenzie Frost, Courtney Zeid.
Expectations: “I think with what I have seen from the team so far this summer, we are in a really good spot to strongly compete in our league, and maybe more,” said McEndree. “The girls have shown strong dedication and drive to better themselves each day. Then add that with our busy, competitive schedule I have set up for us this year. It should be a good test and help us prepare for October.”
19th Hole: Tim Baczkowski returns as the JV coach this year.
Coach: Amanda Kusar, 1st year.
Home Course: Sunny Hill Golf Course.
Conference: Metro Athletic Conference.
Returning Letterwinners: Kendall Brugler, Hannah Combs, Marisa Blakey, Mackenzie Boley, Savannah Fanger, Kylie Finley.
Depth: “We have two new freshmen joining the team this year: Mackenzie Richmond and Sara Foutty,” said Kusar. “Everyone else is returning. We have a lot of upperclassmen experience coming back this year, and we will be leaning on them to get the job done.”
Expectations: “We expect to be competitive in all of our matches and will lean on our upperclassmen experience to do so,” said Kusar.
Coach: Kevin Sponaugle, 1st year.
Home Course: Sugar Bush Golf Club in Garrettsville, 4,627 yards (red tees).
Conference: Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference.
Returning Letterwinners: Madison Woconish (sr.); Grace Scirocco (sr.); Lauren Evans (sr.)
Not Returning: Olivia Grcar, Jen Wade, Sofia Butto.
Depth: “Unfortunately, depth is not our strong suit, only fielding four golfers for this season,” said Sponaugle. “However, I feel that brings this group together as each knows how important they are to the team. New this year is freshman Addison Snyder, who looks forward to jumping right in and contributing.”
Expectations: “Senior Madison Woconish is looking to build upon the strong year she had laset year and has been playing very well leading up to the season,” said Sponaugle. “With each player’s score counting this year, every win will feel important.”
19th Hole: “It’s been an interesting experience being on the coaching side for the first time as opposed to the player’s side,” said Sponaugle. “I’ve really enjoyed working with each player and their game and building upon how they swing and how they approach the game.”
Mascot Rough Riders.
Coach: Bryan Harvey, 11th year, 129-10 career record.
Staff: Larry Picicco, junior varsity.
Home Course: The Fairways at Twin Lakes, Kent.
Conference: Suburban League.
2022 Record: 5-4 Suburban League, league runners-up.
Returning Letterwinners: Madolyn Kost, Izzi Wood, Anna Picicco, Ashlyn Leavery, Adrianna Mineo.
New Golfers: Cassidy Singer, Ella Houk.
Depth: “We will be competitive in 2023 due to the fact we are returning All-Suburban League players Kost and Leavery,” said Harvey. “Madolyn represented Kent Roosevelt at the District Tournament last season. Izzi (Wood), Anna (Picicco) and Adriannna (Mineo) have varsity-match experience and will be key players if we are to advance in the postseason. Cassidy (Singer) and Ella (Houk) could emerge as full-time varsity players and see substantial time during the season.
“Returning sophomores Kate Ennemoser, Kaila Kovalyn and upcoming freshmen Coco Golden and Aubrey Byler have worked hard over the summer and will continue to learn and develop during this season,” Harvey added.
Season Outlook: “Like last season, Medina Highland and Aurora will be our rivals in the Suburban League,” said Harvey. “Both teams have formidable lineups and will probably be two of the best teams in Northeast Ohio. Our hope is that our seniors will set an example that our younger players will want to follow.”
19th Hole: “This season, we are looking forward to improving on 2022,” offered Harvey. “As a team, we are looking forward to the Lady Rider Tournament on Aug. 5th, all league tournaments and the sectional tournament in October.”
Coach: Matt Just, 2nd year, 6-7 career record.
COURSE: Sunny Hill Golf Course, Brimfield. Par 34.
Conference: Portage Trail Conference.
2022 Record: 6-7 overall record, 3-3 in PTC (tied for 2nd).
Returning Letterwinners: Lily Matthews, jr.; Liz Adkins, soph.; Alex Biggin, soph.; Anna Drago, soph.; Ava Miller, soph.
Depth: Newcomers Ella Derr, Chloe Gardner, Gianna Giulitto and Sophia Opritza.
Expectations: “Having a number of ladies returning, and the addition of four more, will provide us with some healthy competition within the program, which will hopefully translate to improved performances this year,” said Just. “We look to compete for a PTC championship this season.”
19th Hole: “We have had a great turnout for summer workouts and hope to see that translate to improved play this season,” Just said.
Coach: Cindy Fesemyer, 9th year.
Home Course: Olde Dutch Mill, Lake Milton.
Last Year: Portage Trail Conference champions.
2022 Record: 12-3 overall; Portage Trail Conference champions; 4th place at sectional tournament; 8th place at district tournament.
Returning Letterwinners: Norah Truex, sr.; Skylar Werschey, sr.; Gracie Westover, sr.; Taylor Blazek, jr.; Jessi Mix, soph.; Adrianna Sloan, soph.; Layna Tittle, soph.; Aubree Varga, soph.
Depth: “We are loaded with experience in seniors Gracie Westover, Skylar Werschey and junior Taylor Blazek,” said Fesemyer. “All three earned all-league honors last season. “Sophomores Jessi Mix, Adrianna Sloan, Layna Tittle and Aubree Varga all have great potential and could help make this an exciting season,” Fesemyer added. “Senior Norah Truex will add more depth to our team. She is an outstanding athlete, who also leads our volleyball team.”
Expectations: “Our girls have been working hard during the off-season and have gained valuable experience in summer tournaments,” said Fesemyer. “Westover, Blazek, Mix, Varga and Sloan are already turning personal-best scores, proving their hard work is paying off. We need to continue to grow as a team and not let up to make this a season to remember.”
19th Hole: “Our Pirates Play Golf Youth Program in conjunction with Olde Dutch Mill is truly paying off,” said Fesemyer. “Most all of these girls have either come through the program or helped lead our youth as a volunteer.”
Coach: Tim Foster, 5th year, 44-29 career record.
Home Course: Boulder Creek, Par 72, 4,880 yards (Red).
Conference: Metro Athletic Conference.
Last Year: 6th at Sectionals, 2nd MAC.
Returning Letterwinners: Cortney Evert, Samantha Clark, Claire Campbell.
Golfers Not Returning: Megan Solly, Abbie Myers, Courtney Morgan, Juliana Reyes.
Depth: “This year, we will see a lot of competition for the bottom-three positions from returning sophomores Sarah Czirok and Hazel Schoenherr, as well as from freshmen Lola Maglionico and Arianna Jacobs,” said Foster. “All girls have been putting in a lot of work during the off-season, and I am excited to see how it will play out during the season.”
Expectations: “Always a competitive league, our expectations are to compete hard every match and see how everything plays out,” said Foster.
19th Hole: Graduates Samantha Miller is returning for her third season at Muskingum University and Sophia Rogowski is returning for her third season at Ashland.