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2017 KENTUCKY STANDARD GOLF PREVIEW: NC girls need a 4th for region

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Cardinal boys figure to be solid this season

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Last year, Nelson County’s girls’ golf squad just missed out on a trip to the state tournament, falling in a playoff for the final qualifying spot.

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“It was so close,” said senior Allie Berry.

“It definitely makes us want it even more, to go to state,” junior Lilly-Anne Dossett said. “We’re even more driven for that goal.”

With Berry and Dossett, two of the top players in the region, the Cardinals figure to have that chance again this year.

“I do think my girls’ team can still be a region contender,” Nelson coach Kevin Burkhead said. “My top two are pretty dang good.”

However, the Cardinals’ coach has a problem: He’s not sure if he’ll have enough girls to qualify for team competition in the region. He has a strong top three between Berry, Dossett and Lauren Bowman, who has improved for her senior season. After that, it’s a mystery.

Nora Gossett played last year as an eighth-grader, but has not elected to come out for golf this season. And freshman Kaitlyn Marksbury only has a handful of varsity matches under her belt.

“We’d like to have two or three more out,” Burkhead said. “We’re still actively recruiting.”

But what he has is a strong 1-2 combo, or perhaps a 1A-1B, given that Berry and Dossett regularly trade off the team scoring lead in their matches.

Berry has been a regular varsity starter since her eighth-grade season, and she’s drawn collegiate recruiting interest from Bellarmine and Murray State, as well as her two favorite choices, Kentucky and Midway.

“I’ve been playing lots of golf this summer and working on my game,” she said. “I’m really excited to see this senior season kick off.”

Dossett got her junior season going with a bang, firing an 81 at a recent tournament in Bowling Green. Burkhead said it was the second-lowest score for an 18-hole round by a Nelson County girls player in the more than a decade he’s been coaching.

“I feel good (about the 81) since it’s the beginning of the season,” Dossett said. “I’m improving more now than I did last year.”

But they know they need help if they’re going to get a chance to qualify for state as a team.

“We’re working on our fourth person and we’re working on recruiting some girls,” Berry said. “We need you.”

Burkhead has an improved boys’ team this year, led by seniors Brandon Ball and P.D. Hockensmith.

“They all have another year of experience,” Burkhead said. “I will try to add them to some tournaments” to challenge them.

Ball has a lot of ability, Burkhead says, but he doesn’t have the command over the mental part of the game and often gets frustrated with himself over bad shots.

“He’s a lot better than he thinks he is,” Burkhead said.

Hockensmith fired an 87 last year at the regionals and has worked hard in the offseason on his game, playing as many as five days a week.

“I’ve really been practicing my chipping and putting,” he said. “I try to play when I’m not working, almost every day, honestly.”

Hockensmith said he and Ball have been working on the leadership aspects of their game, helping out their young teammates.

“We just like to be a role model for younger players,” he said. “We try to calm them down” when things aren’t going well.

Burkhead said freshman Jace Warner, his No. 3 golfer, has gotten stronger in the offseason and has added distance to his drives. Junior Colson Cooper, in the No. 4 slot, has added to his game as he enters his second year of competitive golf, and is getting more comfortable with club selection.

Sophomore Jason Collier, in the No. 5 spot, had a hole-in-one in competition last season. Sophomore Jake Lewis and freshman Angel Lamkin will also challenge for playing time.

“I look forward to having a pretty good season,” Burkhead said.