How do you succeed a head coach who has guided a program for 37 years?
Kevin Ball is going to find out this fall.
Ball replaces veteran Tom Pickerel, who coached Genoa's boys golf program for close to four decades. Pickerel officially resigned as the Comets' coach last fall, and he also will retire after 40 years as a math teacher at Genoa at the end of this school year.
“I told the boys I'd be around to watch them play a little bit this fall,” said Pickerel, who led the Comets to 13 Suburban Lakes League titles and four berths in the state tournament. “Genoa should have a really good team. I still have an interest in how they do. I'll be around to keep an eye on them.”
The Comets have officially moved from the SLL to the newly-formed Northern Buckeye Conference, and the first NBC title is up for grabs in 2011.
Returning from last year's Genoa squad are senior All-SLL performers Andrew Goeckerman, Trevor McLear and Taylor Darling. Goeckerman was a first-team performer, while McLear made the second team and Darling earned honorable mention all-league honors.
The rest of this year's squad includes Chris Chapinski, Riley Swartzmiller and Ben Bricker.
“Taylor is our captain and is a great leader,” Ball said. “Andrew is a great golfer who should be our best scorer this year. He leads by example. He's a good golfer and a better person, and I'm excited about his future. Trevor had our low round in the Port Clinton Invitational this year and is our comic relief. We need Riley and Chris to score well if we are to contend for the NBC this year.
“Chris hasn't been able to practice with the team because of band camp, so we're excited he's back and looking forward to his leadership. Ben is a sponge who wants to improve his game and will do whatever is needed to improve. He's the first one at practice and the last one to leave.”
Ball said he considers it a privilege to be the next golf coach at Genoa.
“Tom Pickerel was a great teacher and golf coach,” Ball said. “The kids miss him, and everywhere I go I hear that I'm taking over for 'the legend.' Tom has helped with the schedule for this year and helps out whenever I call and need help.”
Here is a capsule look at some of the other boys golf programs in the Press coverage area.
The Eagles are also moving from the SLL to the NBC this fall and should be one of the new conference's title contenders under 40th-year coach Mike Gardner, who returns seven lettermen.
Senior Tommy Blanchard, a three-year letterman and a two-time first-team all-league player, returns along with senior three-year lettermen Cody Jennings and Austin Speck, sophomore Steven Bruning, seniors Jacob Faykosh and Nathan Schuessler, and junior John Krock.
“We expect to shoot some good team scores this season,” Gardner said. “We hope to be in contention for the first NBC title. However, much work needs to be done because the top teams in the league all return most of their best players from last year.”
The Eagles won the Fostoria Invitational on Aug. 8 at Lakeland Golf Course, shooting 312 to beat six other teams. Blanchard was tied for medalist honors with a 73, while Speck shot 78, Krock 79 and Bruning 82.
Eastwood also placed third out of 19 teams on Aug. 10 at the Ralph Hohenstein Invitational at Green Hills, shooting 322. Jennings shot 76 to finish sixth out of 95 golfers. Speck had an 81 followed by Blanchard (82) and Krock (83).
The Golden Bears, under second-year coach Sam Weigman, move from the SLL to the TAAC this season.
Gibsonburg returns two lettermen in seniors Cody Green and Leroy Neeb and opened its dual-match season with a 169-198 loss to Elmwood. The Bears also finished fifth at the Royal Invitational.
“We are looking forward to this new chapter in Gibsonburg sports,” Weigman said. “Playing in the TAAC will be exciting and extremely competitive. The team is very young with only two players having any varsity experience. The seniors are providing leadership to help mentor the underclassmen. Our goal is to improve with each match so we are playing our best golf at the end of the season.
“I am looking forward to seeing the culmination of all the work Cody and Leroy have put into their golf game over the past four years. They are both capable of posting low scores and being leaders of this team.”
Coach Terry Tansel's veteran Flyers move from the SLL to the NBC with an experienced squad in 2011.
Lake opened its season at the Fostoria Invitational on Monday and shot 316, finishing in third place, one stroke behind Upper Sandusky and four strokes behind Eastwood.
Nate Yeager, a first-team All-SLL and all-district performer last season, led the Flyers with a 76 followed by fellow seniors Cole Brossia (77), Casey Conine (81), Jake Materni (82) and Ian Johnson (82).
Thomas Nichols and sophomore Michael Kranz complete the lineup.
“We have a very experienced and balanced team this year, which should be one of our strengths,” Tansel said. “The NBC should be very competitive, with a number of teams that could be the best on any given night. It should be a fun and exciting year of golf in the NBC.”
Coach Eric Sweet returns three lettermen in juniors Bryce Rubie and Andrew Benner and sophomore Andy Rathbun. The Rockets' new varsity players will include sophomores Ben Cochran and Jonathan Hatfield and freshmen Jourdan Maguire and Ryan Pavlica.
“We have a very young team this year and we're in a rebuilding year,” Sweet said. “We're playing mostly freshmen and sophomores, and this will be a learning experience for them playing at all these courses.”
Coach Steve Burner's Woodmore squad also moves to the NBC from the SLL and features several returning letterwinners, including senior Billy Blausey, juniors Ty Burner, Mikki Baer, Matt Zatko and Paul Makulinski, and sophomore Devin Fisher.
Blausey and Baer earned first-team All-SLL honors in 2010, while the second team included Ty Burner and Zatko. The Wildcats also feature Mikayla Baer, who qualified for the girls D-II state tournament a year ago.
“I have all but one of my returning lettermen coming back this year, so I am optimistic that we will have a strong showing and we can finish successfully in the NBC,” coach Burner said. “We have strong competition vying for a spot on the varsity squad, including junior Andy Marik, sophomore Matt Hartford and freshman Alex Gedert.”
The 'Cats competed in the Port Clinton Invitational on Monday and took fifth place behind an 81 from Blausey and an 82 from Ty Burner.