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2014 KENTUCKY STANDARD GOLF PREVIEW: Generals climbing ladder

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Thomas Nelson golf preview

By Dennis George

Thomas Nelson golf coach Randy Pinkston seems to have a perpetual smile on his face when he’s around the course these days.

It’s not necessarily because his game is that great. Oh, it’s pretty good.

Rather, Pinkston is very happy at the progress of his teams as Generals golf enters its third season.

“I’m very excited about this upcoming season and so are the kids,” Pinkston said. “We won 15 matches last year after winning only two our first year. The kids see how much better they’ve gotten.”

It’s the play of his top two players that has Pinkston believing that the Generals can make some noise locally and perhaps in the region.

Junior Cody French won a playoff in the regional tournament to advance to state competition and will play in the No. 1 spot. French played on the Mussellman-Dunne golf tour this summer, and gained enough points to finish sixth in the point race.

Sophomore Justin Culver competed on the Kentucky Junior PGA tour, winning one tournament and finishing in the top three on several other occasions.

“I think playing in those tournaments over the summer will really help me this year,” Culver said. “I used to get really nervous in high school matches, but they should be a lot easier now.”

Pinkston said that he “wouldn’t trade my top two players for any two in the state. Those two guys just love the game so much and spent a lot of time on their own this summer trying to get better.”

Not only are those two golfers pushing one another to improve, Pinkston said that sophomore Kyle Burton has joined in that mix.

“He’s got a lot of ability, and with those guys getting better, he’s working harder on his game.”

To be able to compete against the region’s best, Pinkston says he must get consistent play from two more players.

Freshman Gabe Martinez played some varsity a year ago and is described by the coach as the team’s most improved player.

“If he can get down into the low 40’s by the end of the year, it will really help us,” Pinkston said.

Juniors Jacob Mattingly and Evan Mattingly (no relation) will also see lots of varsity action.

“Jacob shot in the 40s for us last year and we hope it can do that again this year,” Pinkston explained. “Evan is a big, strong kid who can hit it a long way, and we just need to get his short game under control.”

Pinkston has scheduled several tournaments to see how his team will fare against top-notch competition.

On the girls’ side, Pinkston molded players who had never picked up a club into a squad that won 21 matches last year.

“We might not be able to compete against those schools whose kids play all year long, but we can hold our own against teams in our area,” he said.

Senior Olivia Rogers is one of those players who had not played golf until joining the Thomas Nelson team as a sophomore. But she has improved so much that she can shoot in the mid 40s. She will be the team’s top player this season.

“I had hit some balls in the backyard, but when I joined the team, it wasn’t much fun,” she laughed. “I hit a lot of balls sideways. But Randy has really worked with me and has helped me improve my game.”

Fellow senior Kenadi Durbin will play in the number two spot. Pinkston said that he is expecting her to maintain an average in the mid to upper 40s.

“Courtney Hillard is a junior who had never played golf until this year, but she shot a 55 her first time out,” Pinkston said. “She has been a pleasant surprise for us.”

Sophomore Shelby Clark will play in the third position for the team. Among other varsity players Pinkston will be counting on are sophomore Kaeleigh Holbrook and freshman twins Libby and Ellie Hagan.

“They transferred from Bardstown and they played in all of Bardstown’s matches last year,” Pinkston noted.