When it comes to prep golf, Charleston Catholic has long had a lot of skill and a bit of luck on its side, reeling off six straight state championships.
Whether or not the luck of the Irish can carry the school to title number seven remains to be seen, but the pieces are certainly in place.
Seniors Nate DeTemple and Alexander Giatris and junior Jack Cimino are all back from last year’s squad and should fill out the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively, in the Irish lineup. Coach Sam Helmick pointed to junior Wilson Meeks as having the inside track on the No. 4 spot, though he added several players that haven’t come out in the past are out this year as upperclassmen.
“I don’t want to be the guy that lets that get away,” Helmick said of the squad’s streak. “I think it does add a little bit of pressure on you.”
Catholic finished 11th in the 26-team Capital City Classic at Big Bend Golf Course last Friday, the team’s first event of the year. Catholic and St. Joseph were the lone two Class A schools in the field and DeTemple suffered a minor back injury on the back nine, hampering his score at the top.
DeTemple finished fifth in last year’s state tournament and Giatris came in tied for eighth, both good enough for All-State honors given to the top 10 in each class.
Giatris finished third among Charleston Catholic’s competitors at the state tournament a year ago finished 16 shots clear of any other team’s No. 3, providing biggest difference in winning the event by 22 strokes.
Helmick hopes depth and experience at the top will lead the Irish to yet another crown.
“Nate is as good as anybody in high school in West Virginia,” Helmick said. “He’s just a quality kid and a quality player.
“This year there’s a lot of parity in Class A. In the past, you could point at Catholic and say, ‘Who’s No. 2?’ But we realize we have to play. This is not the Catholic teams when you had the Casingal brothers and Aaron Persily. [Former coach] Bill Gillispie told me when I took over that state championships are won by No. 3 guys. Everybody’s No. 1 is pretty good. Most teams’ No. 2 is solid. But a lot of teams really drop off at that No. 3 spot. If you’ve got a kid shooting 80 or better at No. 3, you’re going to be pretty good.”
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George Washington’s B.J. Calabrese will enter his 27th year of coaching golf with a lineup with three returners as well.
Siblings Torren Kalasky (senior) and Joseph Kalaskey (sophomore) figure to rotate in the team’s No. 1 and No. 2 spots, with junior John Logan Taylor anchoring the No. 3 position. Those three all played in Wheeling at the tournament meet a year ago.
Willie Roncaglione graduated, and Calabrese said determining the team’s No. 4 is still a work in progress. He listed freshman Emma Nichol and junior John Alderman as possible replacements.
“We’re continuing to improve,” Calabrese said. “We’re stressing consistency and finishing strong. We’re the host team in the region at Berry Hills this year and sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s a bad thing.
“But last year, we finished fourth [in the state tournament] with essentially the same team. Willie was a good player and that hurts, but the others have been there now and experienced the state tournament and it’s good for them to see what it’s all about. You’ve got to go to Oglebay, see the course and experience it to really know what it’s like.”
Torren Kalaskey won the Callaway Junior Tour’s female player of the year honors in the offseason and played as the team’s No. 1 at the Capital City Classic, hosted by GW. The Patriots finished fourth.
“I’m just really proud of Torren, her work ethic is unbelievable,” Calabrese said. “She wants to be good and takes things as a challenge.”
As for a sibling rivalry at the top?
“It gets a little heated, but in a good-natured way,” Calabrese said. “They are competitors. They want each other to do well, but on the other hand, they want to be the one with the lowest score.”
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Poca was the third and final Kanawha Valley school to make the state tournament a year ago, finishing eighth.
Coach Doug Smith will have Mitch Hoffman back for his senior season and he should provide a solid anchor atop the Dots’ lineup as Poca chases a ninth straight berth into the Class AA championship field.
Hoffman finished tied for fourth a year ago and finished third in Callaway Junior Tour points this summer, finishing runner-up to Isaac Prine of Parkersburg in the championship tournament July 24 at Parkersburg Country Club.
“He’s just the kind of kid, you never really see him get that frustrated,” Smith said. “He never shows his emotions on his sleeve.
“The thing about Mitch is he’s had good players around him. He had Travis Covert for one year and David [Scragg] and Alex [Hamrick] with him for two years. That made a difference. When you play with good players, you become a good player if you put in the time.”
Smith is hoping Hoffman rubs off on his teammates even further as seniors Isaac Neal and Trent Covert both also return to man the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively. Sophomore Jacob Blizzard will take the fourth spot for the Dots.
“It’s not like they’ve never been up there so we’ll see what they can do,” Smith said.