Larry Smoot looked up into the rafters of the Brookfield High School gym at the banner noting that the golf team was the runner-up in last year’s state tournament.
“I really want to put one of those things (banner) up that says state champ,” said the reigning Ohio high school golf coach of the year. “It would mean a lot to me. It would hang there forever.”
The golf team set off for Columbus this morning (Oct. 10) following a pep rally to try to fulfill Smoot’s wish. It will be the team’s fourth appearance in the state championship tournament in four years.
“This year, I think they have a shot to do it all,” said teacher Jeff Bruno, who emceed the rally.
Smoot acknowledged the pressure on his three seniors and two sophomores who will hit the links for the two-day tournament, but added, “This is why you do it. It pays off.”
The team is anchored by seniors Conner Stevens and Justin Atkinson, who frequently end up one and two in match scores, and Jake Shingledecker.
“These three kids became my next three boys,” Smoot said, noting he started coaching golf because his two sons played. “They mean a lot to me.”
Conner and Justin “are as good as anyone down there,” he said of the state tournament participants. “Both of these kids are gonna play college golf.”
“Jake is, every year he improves, improves, improves, and I think, I tell other coaches, college coaches, you gotta check this kid out,” Smoot said. “He is really good now, and he’s only gonna get much better.”
Sophomore Kenny Montgomery, another hard worker, has been the fourth player all year, and the fifth spot has been split between sophomores Cameron Wellman and Bobby Lucarell. Cameron got the call for the state tournament, and will tee off first for Brookfield.
“These two battle it out to make the last spot,” Smoot said of Cameron and Bobby. “Two friends that have to compete against each other. Imagine doing that every time, how much pressure that puts, not just game time pressure, practice pressure, school pressure, everything. These two have done it admirably. These two have done a very good job of being friends and putting the team first and knowing what’s best for the team.”
The legacy that the seniors have already built is what the sophomores aspire to, Smoot said.
“It’s a huge leap to get there,” he said. “They try very hard, and they don’t want to let those guys down. The last three years, we’ve built a pretty high bar. To jump over that bar, we need these guys.”
Smoot said he wanted the pep rally, so the team members could see how their school is behind them before they left.
“When you get out there, when you’re on that beautiful course in Columbus, big-time course, just come back to this moment,” Bruno said. “Just remember all these people; the whole city’s gonna be rooting for you.”
The team plays a practice round today, then tees off at 9:50 a.m. Friday at Ohio State University Golf Club. Tee time Saturday is to be determined.
Follow the tournament’s progress at https://m.birdiefire.com/tournament/61518/