Warriors on course for improved season

Published 9:27 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nansemond River might not have a deep golf team, but the Warriors enter the high school golf season as a team with a high level of experience in high school play and tournament play.

At the same time, with that skill, the Warriors are mostly a young team with three or more seasons left for most of head coach Craig Stephenson’s players heading into this season.

Stephenson’s lost only one of his usual top four scorers from last fall’s team which finished fifth in the Southeastern District standings.

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The only senior on this year’s team is Nicole Hemmis, who placed 20th in the 2008 VHSL (Virginia High School League) Girls Open Championship. Hemmis is earning collegiate recruiting interest for her play.

Sophomores Shanice Mason and Travis Johnson will make up two more of Stephenson’s likely top four. Mason placed 36th in the VHSL Girls Open Championship as a freshman. Johnson, while splitting much of his summer with baseball, impressed Stephenson immediately by shooting a two-over par 74 on the first day of practice on Monday at Sleepy Hole Golf Course.

“He’s been here a lot, and I’ve been out on the course with him a lot this summer,” said Stephenson, who said Johnson’s usually working on his golf game in the morning, then playing baseball in the afternoons and evenings.

In high school matches, each school has six golfers play, with the top four scores out of the six counting as the team total. So finding at least one more consistent golfer is at the top of Stephenson’s list.

“I expect three solid scored every time,” said Stephenson. His main problem, which at least is no different than what every Southeastern District coach faces, is he has only a few days before going full speed into the regular season. Nansemond River plays Deep Creek at Nansemond River Golf Club on Tuesday and Hickory at Sleepy Hole on Wednesday.

This is Stephenson’s second year in charge of Warrior golf, and with that he believes he has gained a more patient perspective on the season. Working toward the end of the season, with the district, regional and state tournaments, is the real goalline.

Nansemond River will have a big advantage late in the season, and extra motivation to reach the Eastern Region Tournament. Sleepy Hole Golf Course, where Nansemond River practices and will have three regular season matches, is hosting the district and regional tournaments.