Going into their first competition April 6, the Brown County High School boys golf team’s lineup still wasn’t set in stone.

So far sophomore Parker VanNess stands out as the team leader, accompanied by junior Ben Rygiel and seniors Tyler Poling and Dawson Dunnuck, head coach Brad Baughman said.

The fifth spot is waiting for the golfer who distinguishes himself.

With weather making it difficult to get out on the course and practice, the boys still have plenty to work on even indoors, Baughman said. They recently spent an evening just going over rules.

Brown County High School senior Dawson Dunnuck studies his shot during practice at Salt Creek Golf Course April 4. Submitted
Brown County High School senior Dawson Dunnuck studies his shot during practice at Salt Creek Golf Course April 4. Submitted

While all of the players have some familiarity with the game, for many, this will be their first time playing golf competitively.

“It may be the middle or end of year before everyone understands basic golf rules,” Baughman said. “That’s just kind of the way it goes when you have turnover like this.”

The team graduated four seniors last year. For a sport where the roster is only nine deep, that has significant impact.

Last season, the boys made it to their first regional, and having four players who consistently stayed in 30s and 40s on nine holes helped get them there. Of those four, only VanNess remains.

VanNess still sees potential for his own improvement.

“Short game is where you win and lose matches and tournaments, so that’s what I’ve really been working on,” he said.

Poling has the same focus. He usually scores in the low 50s on nine holes, and now he feels the pressure as one of the top four players to bring that down. To that end, he takes time even after practice to hit the range and practice his chipping.

Senior Dawson Dunnuck wasn’t breaking 50 on nine holes during the 2015 season. Then a torn MCL — a knee ligament — took him out for all of last year.

Yet, that time away from the golf course hasn’t been a total loss, he said. Spending so much time away allowed him to essentially have a “fresh start.”

He started working on his game before the season started, dedicating three days a week to hitting the links.

“I was able to look at my game differently, because I had a lot of problems with my form,” Dunnuck said.

With the fifth spot up for grabs and many of the players on the team new to varsity, Dunnuck said he expects some challenging matches early on.

“But these guys — well, all of us — we have a lot of potential, and that really helps,” he said. “I think a lot of the guys out here have the potential to really move up and elevate their game by the end of the season.”

Dunnuck understands firsthand how much a player can improve over a season. He was new to the game in the 2015 season, yet by the end of the year, he was scoring in the top five for the team.

“At one time, I didn’t know golf, and at one point Parker didn’t know golf,” he said. Dunnuck believes that with confidence, practice and input from the more experienced players, the rest of the team can make their way up, too.

For now, Baughman isn’t ready to name even a potential fifth man.

“That’s a question I’ll be better prepared to answer in 3, 4, 5 weeks when I see some numbers coming in,” he said. “It actually could be anybody.”

He hopes that the younger players see that opportunity and act on it.

“If they pick this up and get passionate about it and move along real fast, there’s going to be opportunity for them to get in the lineup and try to help us,” Baughman said.

Eagles golf

Freshmen: Brendon Asher, Peyton Proctor, Rex Watters

Sophomores: Emerey Brock, Parker VanNess

Junior: Ben Rygiel

Seniors: Dawson Dunnuck, Jacob Ford, Tyler Poling

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.