The dog days of summer are not yet over, but the fall season is already underway for the Saint Ignatius golf program.
The Wildcats held tryouts last week, determining the varsity, JV gold, and JV blue rosters for the season on Saturday based on the overall scores from three days of golfing. Just a couple days later, the Wildcats took the course at Sleepy Hollow for the Massillon Jackson Invitational on Monday.
The early results hint at the incredible potential of a stacked Saint Ignatius golf program. The cupboard is far from bare for first-year head coach PJ Myers '99, who previously served as an assistant coach for the Cats.
"This is one of the most talented teams that Saint Ignatius has ever had," Myers said. "This is the deepest team I've seen here in the last seven years. Numbers-wise, we have 8-9 guys who can compete on the varsity team."
As per usual, the Wildcats will carry six golfers on the varsity team, but the program's depth is far from ordinary. As Myers said, around 8-9 golfers could vie for playing time at the varsity level.
Many of the names on varsity will be familiar to dedicated Saint Ignatius golf fans. Topher Reed, Andrew Kaye, Nick Longano, and Ross Williamson all return from last season. Two newcomers will start the year on varsity – senior Connor Warns and Nick Piesen.
The leader of the pack this season will be Andrew Kaye. Returning for his senior season, Kaye will serve as the team's emotional leader after earning the status of captain. Kaye has developed over the last three years into a great golfer. Kaye qualified as an individual for the State Tournament in 2017 and participated with the rest of the squad in 2018. He capped off his junior year with a two-day total of 170 in Columbus last October. Kaye will be a critical cog in the machine this year.
"Andrew finished as a District Champ as a sophomore and has matured into a great leader since then," Myers said. "The players look up to him for his experience. He's progressed leaps and bounds physically and mentally. The boys really feed off of him. He keeps everyone focused and positive."
The team's No. 1 on the scorecard for most matches this season will likely be Topher Reed. The sophomore performed excellently last season, not only making the varsity squad but excelling. Reed showcased his physical tools and a wise-beyond-his-years approach mentally. He played a large part in powering the Wildcats to Columbus last year, carding a 168 two-day total on the Scarlet Course.
"Topher came out of tryouts as the top guy," Myers said. "He played magnificently with an 8 under par through three rounds. Topher is a great junior player, with some level of hype. He's been great."
Nick Longano and Ross Williamson bring more experience in the middle of the order. The junior and senior played significant parts in the dash to States last year, providing big scores. Longano enjoyed a breakout effort with a team-best 163 at the State Tournament, with Williamson turning in a nice day-two effort. Each tallied good scores over the course of the season and are standout golfers.
"Nick and Ross could play No. 1 on any other high school team," Myers said. "To know we'll get between 73-77 every time they play provides a level of comfort for other players."
Piesen is the younger of the two new faces for the Wildcats. A highly touted player entering tryouts, Piesen did not disappoint. The freshman turned in a 74-72-77 effort for 223, the third-best score at tryouts. A very physically gifted golfer, Piesen has a limitless ceiling, a high floor already. The world is his oyster.
"Nick came into tryouts like Topher. People expected a lot of him," Myers said. "He's a highly touted junior player. He came out of the gates with 74 and 72 at Pine Hills and Avon Oaks, which solidified himself on varsity. He finished 3rd, which shows how good of a golfer he is. He'll thrive at Saint Ignatius."
The elder of the new guys is Connor Warns. The senior spent last season honing his craft on the JV Gold team, developing his talents. A hard worker, Warns will be a significant piece of the team as the No. 6 guy, which shows the depth of the team. Warns would be a No. 2 or No. 3 guy on many teams. But on this deep squad, he needed some heroics to finish with a 229 score and secure a spot on varsity.
"Connor will play in No. 6 spot after he played JV last year, but had phenomenal scores," Myers said. "Connor made a 40-foot putt on the last hole to get that last varsity spot. It's been fun to watch him grow and respond under pressure."
Looking at the JV Gold and JV Blue teams, the talent is very apparent.
"We're 8-9 guys deep from No. 1 to No. 9. That speaks volumes to the future of the program," Myers said. "All of our golfers ae extremely physically gifted. All are mature beyond their age. The upperclassmen have come a long way mentally, while our freshmen and sophomores are very mature golf minds. We have a phenomenal group of freshmen and sophomores who will contribute."