Eastside golf teams to chase tourney berths

COVINGTON - The Eastside boys golf team, led by its only senior Taylor Smith, is off to a 2-0 start, while the Eastside girls are working on their game to be competitive by the time the region tournament comes around.

Boys coach Jay Cawthon pointed out that his team played well until it really counted at the region tournament. But this year the Eagles seem to be more focused as they keep their eye on the prize, a trip to the state tournament.

"This year we just want to make it to state. Last year at the region tournament, we didn't play as well as we should have," Cawthon said. "So making it to state is our ultimate goal right now, and I think we have a good chance of winning the region."

Despite their youth, Cawthon is optimistic that his team can and will be a factor in the region.

The Eastside boys are led by Smith, who after the first two matches of the year is averaging a 37. Besides being the No. 1 golfer, Taylor brings leadership and inspiration on the course.

"Taylor brings a lot of leadership and experience. Every single person looks up to him, and he is so helpful. They all want to play with him, even in a practice round," Cawthon said.

The other player with varsity experience is sophomore J.T. Blaker. So far this season, Blaker has been a model of consistency, shooting a 40 and 41 in his first two competitive rounds.

New to the team are freshmen Tate Miller, Ace Cook and Nick Green and sophomore Taylor Lazenby.

While all six golfers shoot in the 40s, Cawthon's goal for the team is to shave off a few strokes before the region and state tournaments. One way he hopes to do this is better course management.

"They have to learn to put bad shots behind them. They have to learn that when you're in trouble just pitch out and save bogeys," Cawthon said. "They don't have to go for broke every single time, most young kids to that."

After losing most of his experienced golfers last season, Eastside girls coach Jason Grooms knows that he has to build a competitive team.

One thing that Grooms has going for him is that he has a good foundation to start with in sophomore Maggie Smith.

"I would say that Maggie, considering that she is the most experienced golfer, will be the leader of the team," Grooms said. "She did very well in the region tournament last year finishing in the top 10 individually. Her goal is to compete for the region championship."

Junior Caitlin Newman is Grooms' other returning starter with freshmen Madison Raynor, Jessie Lindsey and Illysa Johnson new to the team.

"I have also been very pleased with the potential that I see in our freshmen players. I think that they can contribute right away and I think that they will improve throughout the season," Grooms said.

Besides having Smith compete for the girls region champion, Grooms said that with a lot of hard work and practice the rest of the team can be competitive in the region tournament.

"We would like to qualify for state by being in the top two teams at region," Grooms said. "We will be practicing very hard on the range, putting green and course to insure that we give ourselves the best opportunity to accomplish our goal."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

· Teams: Eastside golf

· Coaches: Jay Cawthon (boys), Jason Grooms (girls)

· Last year: Eastside boys finished sixth in Region 8-AAAA Tournament; Eastside girls placed fifth

· Next match: Thursday vs. Morgan County at Hard Labor Creek