The Murray State golf teams both return experienced golfers, but face upcoming challenges on their quests for Ohio Valley Conference championships.
The women’s team is focusing on consistency. The men’s must replace two-time OVC Player of the Year Patrick Newcomb.
Women’s Head Coach Velvet Milkman said talented young faces, combined with a very successful senior, will be the recipe for success this year.
After the first qualifiers at Miller Country Club, the lineup will see some new Racers in the team’s first tournament.
“We have three freshmen that will be in our lineup, and that’s exciting for me,” Milkman said. “They have stepped right in and have been consistent.”
The three freshmen chosen to make their debut at the Drake Creek Invitational are Minta Yin, Sophie Hillier and Sydney Trimble.
Trimble is expected to be a big contributor to the team and continue her terrific play from this summer.
Her biggest success of the summer was winning the Florence Paxton Memorial Ladies Golf Tournament in Paducah, Ky.
Senior Delaney Howson, a three-time All-OVC team member who has led the team the past three years in scoring, has made improvements to her game that could take her and the team to the next level.
“She is starting to make a lot more birdies this year, and you make birdies by making putts,” Milkman said.
The team will also get experienced leadership from junior Gina Nuzzo. Milkman said it will be up to these two upperclassmen to lead the Racers this year.
Unlike the women’s team that has experienced upperclassmen, the men will depend on a trio of sophomores to lead the team.
“This is the youngest team I’ve had since my first year of coaching so that’s both good and bad,” said Head Coach Eddie Hunt.
The leader of the trio is Preston French, who saw the most action last year. He was later selected for the OVC tournament lineup.
“[French] had a really good freshman year and made the OVC’s All-Newcomer team,” Hunt said. “He has really played well for us in our qualifying rounds.”
While naming French the leader of the team, Hunt said he wanted to make sure the team wasn’t going to depend on just one player.
“We’ve been fortunate the last four or five years to have the most dominant players in the conference, starting with Nick Newcomb, then Cameron Carrico and then last year with Patrick Newcomb,” Hunt said.
This year, there is not one dominant player on the team, but Hunt said he is fine with that because this team has more depth than usual.
“We have five or six good players, and there might be a different player each week that will step up and be our lowest scorer,” Hunt said.
Behind French are Jared Gosser and Duncan McCormick. Gosser was also part of the OVC tournament team that finished third last spring.
This fall is important for Hunt as he tries to determine which golfers will be the starting five for the spring. Hunt said he expects to shuffle in up to seven players this fall to allow them the opportunity to make the spring lineups.
Both teams open the fall season with tournaments Monday and Tuesday. The men travel to the Wasioto Winds Fall Kick-off held at Wasioto Winds Golf Course in Pineville, Ky.
The women host the Drake Creek Invitational at Drake Creek Golf Club in Paducah, Ky.
The Racers take on OVC teams in both tournaments, which will let their coaches see how the teams stack up in the conference.
Story by Tom Via, Contributing Writer