On Wednesday, for the first time since March 8, the Wildcats will be facing off against other competition.
Having completed tryouts, the Saint Ignatius golf program will open the 2020 campaign with the Walsh Jesuit Invitational at Brookledge Golf Course in Cuyahoga Falls. It's the moment the Golf Cats have dreamed of for a long time.
Now that it's here, meet the 18 young men and learn about the 3 teams ready to take the course for the Wildcats.
The Saint Ignatius Golf program is typically broken up into three teams – Varsity, JV Gold, and JV Blue. This year, the Wildcats will still field three teams, but with a different approach and different names – Varsity Blue, Varsity Gold, and Junior Varsity.
You likely have two questions: 1. Why the name change? and 2. What will be different?
To answer the first query, the Wildcats are blessed a plethora of outstanding golfers. Golfers 1-12 are varsity-level talents who can compete with most varsity golfers in the state. This became quite apparent at tryouts, which were particularly competitive this year. The rearrangement will ensure that all 12 golfers will have the chance to compete at the varsity level.
"Coming off one of the most grueling tryout processes in the state, we really look forward to a lot of success. The kids who came out all did a phenomenal job, whether they made the team or not," says PJ Myers '99, the Wildcats' head coach. "We appreciated all of the effort from all of the kids. The kids who are part of our 18-man program are tremendously talented individuals. We've expanded to two varsity teams and one JV team because of the amount of talent we have. We flipped in that direction because golfers 1-12 can compete with anyone in the state."
As for the second question, the Varsity Blue and Varsity Gold teams will play similar schedules. Varsity Blue will be the top team and the Varsity Gold Cats will the second squad.
Players will rotate back and forth between the two teams based on performance.
"We want to give everyone on our varsity teams to have the opportunity to compete at the highest level possible," Myers explains. "I expect both teams to go out and win on any given day. After tryouts, the slate is wiped clean. Everyone starts at zero. With the two varsity programs, we'll play a very similar schedule. Kids will have the opportunity to bounce between teams if they're playing very well. We have a complex scoring system we've put into place, which reflects the difficulty of the course and conditions, not just what you shot on that day. If we do see good play, they'll have the opportunity to move up."
The returning seniors
Three rising seniors will help to keep the Wildcats grounded this season – Andrew Martin, Nick Longano, and Liam Doyle.
Martin will serve as the team captain. A steadying presence, Martin is a great young man who will be a wonderful servant-leader. Martin played much of his junior season with the JV Gold squad, and he'll start his senior season with the Varsity Gold team. He's got incredible potential, as shown by his score of 72 on Day 1 of tryouts.
Longano is a player to watch all season long, too. He wowed fans at the State Tournament in 2019, scoring a nice score of 79 on Day 1 and following up with a solid 82 on Day 2. In the offseason, Longano made plenty of noise. His achievements included winning the Boys Merrill-Lynch Shootout, held during the first round of the 37th Northern Ohio PGA Junior Tour Championship. Longano impressed at tryouts, to no one's surprise.
Doyle will be a name to keep an eye on, as well. He'll open the year on Varsity Gold, but he's a hard worker who will post some nice scores all year long.
The dangerous duo
Topher Reed and Nick Piesen are two underclassmen who return to the show with experience under their belts already.
Reed has two letters to his name following outstanding freshman and sophomore seasons, including a 77 on Day 2 of the 2019 State Tournament. The sky is the limit for him as a junior after an impressive summer.
The Fairview Park native made plenty of noise on the course during the offseason. One of Reed's crowning accomplishments was his third-place effort at the 2020 World Teen Championship a couple weeks ago, with a score of 219 during the 3-day event.
"He's had a great amount of success nationally across AJGA and Hurricane and Golfweek," says Myers. "His junior golf scoreboard ranking has gone up. He is one of the top players in his class across the United States. We expect great things from him. He is a tremendous talent."
Piesen is a similarly talented Wildcat. As a freshman, Piesen burst onto the scene with force. The Strongsville native often anchored the Wildcats and showcased his immense gifts.
As Piesen showed this summer, he's coming into his own now, and that's dangerous for opponents.
"Nick finished 3rd place at the Ohio Junior Championships and secured status across many national junior tours, which is a huge thing for kids," Myers says. "Nick has hit his groove physically and emotionally on the course, and you can see it in his scores."
More familiar faces
If you're a fan of the Golf Cats, you'll recognize many of the golfers in the program from last year's JV Gold and JV Blue teams.
Doyle, MJ Myers, and Connor Malicki all earned promotions from the JV Gold squad to the varsity teams. Malicki will open the season on the Varsity Gold team after an outstanding three days of tryouts. His Day 1 score was particularly impressive, with a program-best score of 70. Following a very good freshman season, Malicki could have a breakout sophomore campaign on varsity. Myers has been working all offseason for his junior season. He'll shine this season, and always brings an upbeat attitude that is contagious.
Michael Van Etten, Dominic Pilla, John Thompson, Ethan Hughes, and Michael O'Leary all return from last year's JV Blue team. Van Etten and Pilla will be leaders on the JV squad this season as veteran juniors. Both men tallied good scores at tryouts and will look to improve as the season rolls onward. Hughes will look to do the same as a sophomore.
Thompson and O'Leary earned promotions to Varsity Gold after impressive showings at tryouts. The sophomore duo looked good playing for Coach Tom Bogen last year and will be nice additions to Tom Beach's team in 2020.
Three new non-freshman names surface on the roster this season – Sean Hoagland, Artie Reginelli, and Charlie Medvin.
Hoagland burst onto the scene at tryouts with an exciting mark of 71 on Day 1, bested only by Malicki. Hoagland opens the year on the Varsity Blue squad, and will look to make a great first impression in a busy first week.
Reginelli and Medvin both made the cut for the junior varsity team. The two sophomores will be welcome additions to the JV outfit, as the duo wrote in solid scores during tryouts. Under Bogen's direction, these two could flourish.
"We have a tremendous amount of young talent in our freshman and sophomore classes," Myers avows.
The freshmen phenoms
Several freshmen survived the grueling tryouts to make the cut. All three have incredibly bright futures.
Bradley Chill Jr., Julian Dugan, and Frank Adamo are the names to know. One freshman will be on each roster.
Chill is the name who sticks out first. The Columbia Station native is incredibly talented. On Days 1 and 2 of tryouts at Pine Hills, Chill tallied scores of 73 and 78, very darn good for an incoming freshman. Chill secured a spot on the Varsity Blue team, marking the third straight season that the Wildcats will have a frosh on the top team.
"Scoring in the top six at tryouts in an extremely competitive environment is impressive," Myers says. "For a freshman to do that, it's a testament to Bradley's pedigree as a junior player coming into our program and bringing that experience and success to Saint Ignatius."
Dugan and Adamo also showed great promise this past weekend. Dugan cracks the Varsity Gold to start and Adamo will begin his time as a Cat on the JV team.
The veteran coaches
PJ Myers enters just his second season as head coach, but don't think he's not experienced.
After his days as a standout golfer at Saint Ignatius and Cleveland State, Myers stayed involved as an assistant coach under former coach Brian Becker '77. Myers learned plenty under his tutelage.
Myers also returns a savvy bunch of experienced coaches. Tom Beach returns to lead the Varsity Gold team and Tom Bogen will mentor the JV squad.
And of course, the beloved Bob Koch '64 will help as an assistant coach. We could count up the years of experience among the quartet, but we'll run out of fingers and toes to count on just with Coach Koch alone. All jokes aside, this quartet of golf coaches is just about as good as you'll find in the country. And they're simply wonderful people, too. Spending a day with them on the course is a pleasure.
As for Myers, he's just thrilled to be back on the course with his team.
"I'm excited to get back at it. We've been away from sports for a while," Myers says. "Being able to interact with the boys, socialize with them, and having the opportunity to compete in a team environment, those are the things that get us going on a daily basis. I'm excited to see them compete as a team. I expect big things."