ST. MARYS — The past two sports seasons at St. Marys High School began on a state championship high note thanks to the Blue Devils’ golf team. Everyone being put in a good mood by the parties at Wheeling’s Oglebay Park.
As luck would have it, they can do it once again. Hamilton and company also have the added bonus of additional depth on the squad along with returning everyone who played on the last two state championship teams. “It feels to be able to work together and being able to go get another one,” Brayden Hall said.
If that sounds unbelievable, it isn’t.
“This year we are going to be really deep,” Hamilton said. “We have kids good from our No. 1 player to our No. 8 and No. 9 player.”
They all don’t just create depth, but experienced depth. “They got more exposure too and that wasn’t something they had a lot before. They were practicing and playing and playing and playing and wondering why they weren’t getting any better,” she said. “Well, playing is going to make you better, but the competitiveness and the drills and those types of skills will make you even better and just playing competitively they are traveling and getting experience and that has completely taken their games to a whole new level.”
But that drive to get better isn’t just coming from the championship quartet of Grant Barnhart, Brandon Lawhon, Hall, and Ethan Bennett. Incoming freshmen Trent Renner, Preston Lawhon and Mackenzie Armstrong are already turning heads before even stepping into high-school competition.
Renner’s proven himself on the Callaway and Under Armour tours so far this summer.
“He’s had some really impressive finishes at some top events,” Hamilton said. One of which is his recent qualification for the UA Junior Tour’s Summer National Championship in Florida.
Preston brings a consistency and steady improvement rate with him after playing for Hamilton as the middle school’s No. 1 golfer. In addition, he actually got Renner on board with the high school team. “They are fighting back and forth in a good way and forcing each other to do better,” she said.
Joining them is Armstrong, who’s currently ranked No. 1 in her age division on the Callaway Junior Tour. In fact, a top three finish locks her into a spot to compete at the Greenbrier in the finale.
Will any of those three challenge Brandon or Barnhart for a varsity spot? Likely not. Though Hamilton enjoys mixing and matching the line ups, she believes it is quite unlikely anyone takes spots from her top two golfers.
“They just get better every year, and I just don’t foresee a situation where they don’t play varsity,” she said.
But the trio will see playing time.
Hamilton plans for her best four players to be on the course when it is time to play in the Little Kanawha Conference Tournament, the Class A Region I tournament, and of course, the big prize. “I am anxious to see who rises up and takes more of a leadership role.”
With so much depth and positive energy flowing through the program, have they all turned their heads to the final weekend of the golf season? Not quite.
“It would be nice,” Hamilton said. “Right now, what we are working on is everyone improving their games. We just want to try to get better every day.” “And work on the parts of our game where we consider ourselves weak.
“I really hope we will end the year with me having another chat with a newspaper writer at Oglebay. Every year I keep pushing these kids harder and harder and to just see the improvements they’ve made it’s just amazing. I think they just needed a more push and edge to get them going. And it wouldn’t shock me if I am giving another interview.”
Considering the depth and experience on this team, it doesn’t sound like that’s certainly in the cards. “If we play like we did last year and put in the work the chances are pretty good,” Bennett said.
TAKING A LEAP UP IN COMPETITION
With the success the Blue Devils have had the last two years, comes attention from more people outside of just the Little Kanawha Conference. Hamilton and company have been invited to a number of big-time events this season.
The largest invite being the Marion County Invite, which, according to Hamilton, “is filled with a ton of Class AA and AAA teams,” up in Fairmont. Her players will also see those schools in the Callaway Events. “It has been exciting to see how their success has drawn interest from other teams,” she said.
If there’s one place, she hasn’t had much luck getting matches schedule though – it has been up north. Hamilton’s wish to get the kids more time at Oglebay by playing Wheeling Park or Wheeling Central and against John Marshall keeps coming up as a dud. “But they are pretty hard to get them on the schedule, I am hoping that we can still make it happen … we will see,” she said.
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