By Keeli Parkey
Second-year head coach Gene Renfro hopes to see the Unicoi County High School golf program build on the lessons learned in the 2017 season.
“Last season was an adjustment for all of us,” Renfro told The Erwin Record. “It was a time of transition and we had a lot of growth.”
Since practice began in July, UCHS golfers have practiced at the Erwin Elks Club. For many, many years, the UCHS golf program practiced and played its home matches at Buffalo Valley Golf Course; however, with the course now closed, Renfro’s squad needed a new place to practice. Thanks to the willingness of the Elks Lodge to make its course available, the Blue Devils had a place to prepare for their 2018 campaign.
“Since Buffalo Valley closed and has not reopened, we needed somewhere to go and the Elks was gracious to have the team there,” Renfro previously said. “We can’t thank the Elks enough for having us there.”
The golfers used their time at the Elks to hone their skills before the 2018 campaign began.
“We are just trying to compete with ourselves every day,” Renfro said. “If we can get better every day that’s all we can control. We can’t control what the other teams do. Unlike other sports, we don’t play defense. Golf is unique in that there is no way to counter what the other team does.”
The 2018 Blue Devil team has a mix of returning players and new faces, according to Renfro. Returning players include juniors Caleb Adkins, Nicholas Hensley and Nicholas Lynch and sophomores Nicholas Bender and Andy Cole.
Adkins, Hensley and Lynch all competed in last season’s district tournament.
“They have experience that we hope to build on this year,” Renfro said.
Bender and Cole are also expected to contribute to the team’s success this season.
“Hopefully, they can push some of the older players as well,” Renfro said.
Joining the team for the first time are junior Brett Lingerfelt and senior Jordan Hensley.
“The good thing about them is they are experienced in other sports, so they have that competitive edge that is needed,” the head coach said. “They have been a good addition and they have hit the ground running. They have stepped right in and meshed with the team. Our chemistry has been great. … You’re only as good as your weakest link and if we can keep improving day by day we will be alright.”
Renfro said he would like to see the Blue Devils improve their 526 team score at last year’s district by a significant margin.
“We could go out and shoot 440,” he said. “I don’t see why we couldn’t.”
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Junior Katlyn Higgins is the one and only member of the Lady Devil golf team this season. Renfro believes this three-year player has a chance to advance beyond the district tournament and into the regional.
“She recently played one of her best rounds,” Renfro said. “She is in a unique position – being the only girl at the moment. Hopefully, she can embrace that and take that challenge on and strive to show others in this league what she can do. I believe she could qualify for the regional; she has that potential, it’s just putting it all together.”
Renfro said he is still welcoming UCHS students to join the golf program.
“We will be happy for someone new to join the group,” he added. “Golf is a lifetime sport that anybody can play.”
As they did in 2017, the golf teams will play in District 1 of the TSSAA’s large division, which includes Daniel Boone, David Crockett, Dobyns-Bennett, Elizabethton, Science Hill, Sullivan Central, Sullivan East, Sullivan South, Tennessee High and Volunteer.
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The UCHS golfers’ most recent competitions included matches at the Johnson City Country Club on Monday, Aug. 13, and at Bays Mountain on Tuesday, Aug. 14, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.
The teams are scheduled to play at Pine Oaks on Wednesday, Aug. 15, and at the Johnson City Country Club on Thursday, Aug. 16.