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2014 KENTUCKY STANDARD GOLF PREVIEW: Nelson girls young; boys need cohesion

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Nelson County golf preview

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Nelson County’s golf squads are faced with different challenges for the 2014 season, as the girls go into the campaign with a full-on youth movement underway, while the boys are searching for the cohesion necessary to compete for a region title.

The Cardinal girls return just one senior, Lauren Cox, with the remainder of the roster freshmen or younger.

“I’m just going to have to be there … to help them out, help the team out,” Cox said of assuming the team leader role.

The Nelson boys, on the other hand, have six varsity returnees, with five juniors or seniors looking to claim the top spots in the lineup. Boys’ coach B.J. Newton is hoping a strong vocal leader can emerge out of that group, with the rest of the squad rallying around him.

“As the season progresses, we’ll find out where we are as a team,” Newton said. “There’s no doubt my juniors and seniors have ability.”

The best candidate for that leader role could be Parker Taylor, a senior with a smooth lefty swing who returns as the Cardinals’ No. 1 player.

His classmate, Brent Ball, and juniors Jacob Newton (the coach’s son), A.J. Mattingly and Zak Womack head up the varsity roster.

“If they practice and put forth the effort, they can do some good things,” B.J. Newton said.

The loss of Jacob Taylor, who at times manned the No. 2 spot last year as an eighth-grader, will hurt. Taylor joined Bethlehem’s squad for his freshman season.

A pair of sophomores and a big group of freshmen are the program’s future anchors.

“We’re going to have to dig deep and grind it out to be competitive,” Newton said. “If my kids continue to play and work out, it will come together.”

For coach Kevin Burkhead’s girls, the bigger future picture should be sunny once his squad — largely comprised of middle-schoolers and some elementary school kids pressed into varsity action — matures.

“The youngsters can be good; they like to play,” Burkhead said. But, “it’s basically a middle-school team.”

However, the Cardinals are not without goals for this season, mind you.

Cox is the team’s holdover at No. 1, having just missed out on qualifying for the state tournament by a few strokes.

“She can crush the ball and it’s fairly straight,” said Burkhead, who feels like Cox has a chance to really blossom at the next level if a college takes a chance on her.

Cox shot a 40 in a recent nine-hole practice round, and with improving freshman Allie Berry — who returns at the No. 2 spot — the Cardinals have a formidable combo at the top of the lineup.

Like Cox, Berry has a nice swing and is solid off the tee, and should find her scores settling into the 40s as well.

“She’s got a chance to be a really good player,” Burkhead said. “She just needs more experience.”

In the meantime, Cox will be helping out with guiding the Cardinals’ youth movement while focusing on improving her own game.

“It doesn’t really bother me,” she said of juggling her leadership role while still working on her own game.