High school coaches shudder to use the dreaded word that suggests starting from scratch and sacrificing short-term goals to emphasize the big picture.
Then again, when you lose four-fifths of the starting lineup from a team that missed qualifying for golf states by the width of a ball marker, and when you take over as that program’s fourth different coach in five years, everything is tempered with a tad of realism.
Also, be reminded that Scott County boys’ golf coach Bryan Flanders is jumping into a talent pool that’s been split by an invisible, velvet rope. More than half the 20-or-so county boys who plan to play golf this autumn will wear the navy blue and green of Great Crossing.
“I’m excited to have the kids we have,” Flanders said. “They’re good kids, and they come from good families. That gives us a chance to focus on golf and reloading a little bit, I’ll call it, instead of rebuilding.”
Seven golfers will suit up for Scott County. Two, in particular, give the Cardinals a firm foundation.
Eighth-grader Alex Bennett comes off a strong summer in which he won multiple Kentucky junior tournaments, including top honors in his age group at the Lexington city championship.
Bennett shot 35 earlier this week in an exhibition match against Bourbon County.
“We’re very fortunate to have Alex Bennett, very happy,” Flanders said. “It’s going to give Ethan some competition.”
Ethan is Bryan Flanders’ son and the only returning player from last season’s top five. The younger Flanders and Kyle VanValkenburg, primarily a junior varsity golfer last year, are Scott County’s oldest players as juniors.
“We’ve still got two years of whatever top five it comes out to be,” VanValkenburg said. “We’ve got talent, but it’s talent that’s also young. We have an eighth-grader who will probably shoot in the low 30s by next year.”
Both juniors, by comparison, didn’t start playing golf in earnest with their dads until they were Bennett’s age.
“I got into it eighth grade, and ever since then, I wish I’d gotten into it sooner,” VanValkenburg said. “The more you play this game, the easier it gets.”
“We should be good for the next couple years. We’re growing in the game,” Ethan Flanders added. “It’s good to be that good so young. I started probably in eighth grade, but I wasn’t even close to being that good. It takes a lot of practice.”
Flanders was part of a Scott County lineup that suffered only one significant graduation loss over a period of three years.
Led by Brody Webb, Trevor Caudill and Luke Tackett, the Cardinals finished fourth in the Region 9 championship two years ago and were disappointed with third in a rain-soaked regional at Kearney Hill last season.
“They’ve got some big shoes to fill. I don’t think Brody shot a round over 72. Trevor had an outstanding year. Luke really didn’t get a lot of the credit he deserved. He was a phenomenal golfer, as well,” Bryan Flanders said. “It made things challenging for the younger guys. We’ve got to spend a lot more time on the course than we have in the past.”
Webb will play Division I golf at Morehead State, while Caudill has joined the NAIA program at Campbellsville.
Scott County lost another starter, Grant Cambron, to the new Great Crossing program.
“We utilized social media to get some people out,” the coach said. “We’re blessed in this community, so we’ve got guys coming over from other sports such as the baseball program. That makes this transition much easier.”
VanValkenburg, sophomore Blake Ford and a second middle school golfer, Liam Spurlock, round out the lead quintet at this stage. Two freshmen, Wyatt Holbrook and Caden Less, also will compete for playing time.
“First goal is to beat Great Crossing,” Ethan Flanders said. “We’re practicing hard every day. We have a good team, and we’re looking forward to playing together.
“If our top four guys post a solid score, we can win some matches. We played solid the other day, and I know with everyone’s potential, we can go way lower than that.”
Greg Powell is Bryan Flanders’ assistant coach. They will guide a group that has realistic expectations but hasn’t given up on the idea of being back in the conference and region mix.
“I’d like to see to us win two tournaments,” VanValkenburg said. “That would be huge. Just some wins this season would be fantastic.”
Lexington Christian Academy will be a prohibitive favorite in the region. At the very least, coach Flanders hopes to see his top two challenge for an individual berth at the KHSAA state meet. Webb and Mario Diaz each earned that trip to Bowling Green in recent seasons.
“We just play in a very tough region. If you look at our score the past two years, it would have been enough to win most other regions in the state,” Flanders said. “Last year we had what I would call an elite-level golf team, when you have five players that shoot in the 70s. Most programs don’t have that.”
Scott County boys’ golf
Bryan Flanders (first year)
Third place in Region 9
Ethan Flanders (junior)
Kyle VanValkenburg (junior)
Grant Cambron (now at GCHS)
Blake Ford (sophomore)
Wyatt Holbrook (freshman)
Caden Less (freshman)
Alex Bennett (eighth grade)
Liam Spurlock (eighth grade)
5, Rocket Invite, Weissinger Hills
6, Flyer Classic, Juniper Hills
10 Pikeville Invite, Stonecrest
12 Model Patriot Invite, Arlington
13 Sayre, Cherry Blossom
19 Shelby County, Cherry Blossom
24 CKY Shootout, Old Bridge
29 Collins, Shelbyville
31 Eagle Trace Invite, Eagle Trace
3 Anderson Co., Wild Turkey Trace
4 Franklin County, Cherry Blossom
7 Montgomery Invite, Indian Creek
8 Bourbon Invite, Houston Oaks
9 Great Crossing, Cherry Blossom
16 Western Hills, Cherry Blossom
21 CKBC tournament, Moss Hill
25 Bourbon Co., Cherry Blossom
1 Region tournament, Kearney Hill
7-11 States, Bowling Green
Scott County goes from having a rock-solid top five that was razor-close to a state berth last season to its youngest team in recent memory. The cupboard certainly isn’t bare. Bennett and Flanders give the Cards an outstanding nucleus. SC aims to remain competitive in the conference and pull some surprises.
“The biggest focus was just getting players. We really didn’t know who we had until open house.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.