Saints loaded on links

Published 10:37 pm Friday, March 21, 2014

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy golf team has been enjoying an exciting run during the past few years, and it got its 2014 season off to a great start with Thursday’s 164-180 win over Trinity Episcopal School at Salisbury Country Club in Midlothian.

“It could have been worse, it could have been better,” NSA head coach Katie Murphy said. “It was a nice place to start. Everybody likes to start with a win.”

Junior Keith Cooper averages 36 to 39 strokes in a nine-hole round.

Junior Keith Cooper averages 36 to 39 strokes in a nine-hole round.

The Saints’ success in recent history was punctuated by a state championship win in 2012. They placed third at the state tournament in 2013, but with most of the team returning this year, plus some promising new talent, the exciting run is expected to continue with the potential of another state title on the horizon.

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“I think they have just as good a chance as any,” Murphy said of her golfers.

She said, last year, they found out at the state tournament, “On any given day, anybody can play well and win,” as Greenbrier Christian Academy took first and Atlantic Shores Christian School took second.

Now, the Saints will “take that sting of that loss and they’ll use that to motivate themselves,” Murphy said.

NSA had a strong run last year with an overall regular season record of 13-2, 5-2 in the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools. It narrowly lost the TCIS tournament, 304-305 to Cape Henry Collegiate School.

The Saints will press on now without three-time all-conference honoree Stuart Brazil, who graduated, but Murphy was happy to report that “other than that, I did not lose anybody … Great problem to have.”

Upperclassmen dominate the 2014 roster, with four of the top six being juniors and seniors.

Murphy’s top two standouts are senior Trey Wren and junior Keith Cooper, both of which average 36 to 39 strokes in a nine-hole round.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s golf team will be led this year by senior Trey Wren.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s golf team will be led this year by senior Trey Wren.

“You can always depend on them, and now they’ve got that little bit of age and maturity to them,” Murphy said. “They’re the go-to guys.”

Cooper received all-conference and all-state honors last year and was the medalist on Thursday, hitting a 37. Wren, who was all-conference last year, was right behind Cooper on Thursday with a 38.

“They push everyone beneath them to do better and that’s what a coach looks for in a leader,” Murphy said. “It’ll be a very fun battle to see them compete for No. 1 this season.”

The coach indicated work needs to be done to ensure that NSA is producing solid scores in the No. 3 and No. 4 slots, since the top four scorers account for the team score in competitions.

Murphy is happy to have some experienced golfers to work for those solid scores, including juniors Will Comer and Zach Roberts.

“They are two very solid players in their own right,” she said, as they average 39 to 42 strokes in a nine-hole round.

Sophomore Thomas Meyers carries the same average and has key experience dating back to his pre-high school days.

“He was part of that state championship team as an eighth-grader, so he is very important for the future,” Murphy said.

Senior Madison Ryan returns, and she will be looking to improve her game and break into the starting lineup, Murphy said, expressing confidence in Ryan’s capability to do it.

Senior Jackson DeMello is one of two NSA team members who are brand new to the sport. Nevertheless, DeMello was one of the starting six on Thursday.

“Jackson’s been a very pleasant surprise,” Murphy said, adding that he will be very important to the team and has a game that can improve as he goes along.

Sophomore Clay Hardee is the other newcomer to the sport, and junior Taylor Bridgeman rounds out the roster in his first year on varsity.

The biggest challenge that Murphy foresees her golfers needing to overcome will be one that they face on every hole.

“They need to just stay in the moment and play hard,” she said, noting they cannot get distracted by the past or the future.

Nansemond-Suffolk (1-0, 0-0) hosts Cape Henry Collegiate School and Portsmouth Christian School on Tuesday afternoon at Sleepy Hole Golf Course.