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The gift of time to grow

Buckingham County High School Head Golf Coach Tim Hoag is encouraged by having a roster of young players this year because it gives them more time to develop their skills on the links.

“These kids start playing golf later in life, unfortunately, because of whatever circumstances, so a lot of them are just picking up the game, and they’re early, mid-teens,” Hoag said.

During the course of the season, they can find themselves up against opponents that have been playing since they were 4 or 5 years old.

Comparing those two levels of experience, “that’s a pretty big difference when you get up into the high school arena,” Hoag said.

He noted he has good athletes present on the team this year.

“They play other sports, so it’s just a matter of how much they’re willing to put into it,” he said.

Due to graduation, the Knights lost their No. 1 player from last year, Gray Heslip.

Buckingham did not qualify for regionals as a team in 2016, but Heslip made the cut as an individual player.

This year, the Knights are represented by junior Peyton Taylor, sophomores Trevor Kelly, Darian Lipscomb and Mason Ballowe and freshman Matthew Davis. Except for Davis, everyone else is a returner from the 2016 squad.

Hoag said that for individual scores, “our team average right now after four matches is 55 for nine holes, and our players range from 54 to 60 as far as their average scores for nine holes to date. I believe everybody on our team should be shooting in the upper 40s with more consistent performances in practice.”

The coach noted that Taylor, the team’s lone upperclassman, is definitely capable of lowering his score significantly.

Presently holding the No. 1 spot is Kelly, who is averaging a 54.

Hoag said that Davis, the newcomer to the team, “just picked up the game really about a month and a half ago, and he goes out and shoots a 49 on his very first match against Randolph-Henry and Amelia. So, that was a very nice surprise to see him do well. He’s a left-hander, and he’s got a lot of potential.”

All five players on the team enjoy playing the game, the coach said. “Even with the frustration, they really enjoy playing.”

He noted he is working with them to develop their mental approach to the game, helping them to push through frustrations and stay level-headed.

With the Virginia High School League’s realignment, Buckingham will no longer compete in a conference. However, it will still face a tall challenge in the James River District, which features strong programs like Randolph-Henry High School.

“I think, realistically, out of nine teams, we’re probably going to end up sixth or seventh,” Hoag said.

Only one team from the region goes to the state tourney under the new alignment.

“It’s a pretty high-caliber team that will actually go beyond the regionals, which everybody qualifies for,” the coach said.

He aims to see his team elevate its caliber of play Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. when it competes at Hermitage Country Club.