On paper, the county high school golf race looks like a three-team battle between perennial favorite Broadneck and upstarts Arundel and Severna Park.
On the greens, however, is where it will be decided.
Broadneck is vying for its fourth straight district title and itsthird consecutive county crown.
The Bruins, who were perfect in their dual matches last season, will play in the more competitive A Division along with Arundel, Old Mill, Meade and Severna Park. Annapolis, Chesapeake, Glen Burnie, North County and South River will battle in the higher handicapped B Division.
Broadneck coach Jim Morris believes his team has the talent to "three-peat" as county champions, but is a bit skeptical about his squad's chances at the district tournament Oct. 7 at Wakefield Valley Golf Club in Westminster.
"It's going to be tough to win the districts this year," said Morris, whoseBruins competed in the A Division opener yesterday at Dwight D. Eisenhower Golf Course in Crownsville. "Wakefield Valley is Westminster (High's) home course, and they've always been tough."
And so have the Bruins.
Jeff McKnight returns for Broadneck after an All-Countyjunior year. McKnight will be joined by a trio of talented juniors in Mike Santacroce, James Bae and Matt Tengwall.
Giving the Bruins the necessary depth and filling the No. 5 and 6 spots will be seniorsMike Fellona and Jon Smith.
"I'm pleased with the turnout this season," Morris said.
"We're a well-rounded team. It's tough to findsix quality people, but we've got that. We're getting more and more athletes out each year."
Carol Nutt's Arundel squad, which finished second in the county last season, welcomes back defending county champion Gary Carpenter.
Carpenter, who won the crown as a junior last season, spent his summer playing competitive golf and is poised torepeat.
"He's more in control emotionally," said Nutt. "He competed in a lot of junior amateur events this summer and was quite successful."
The Niemy brothers, Graham and Kris, return for the Wildcats and will be joined by senior transfer Andy Furtado from New Mexico.
"Broadneck is the team to beat, but they're not unbeatable," saidNutt. "Right now, I've got all my ducks lined up in the water, and I'm pleased with what I see. I have a lot of depth and a lot of peopleto choose from."
Severna Park doesn't have the talent pool that Arundel and Broadneck have, but the Falcons somehow find a way, each year, to be represented at the state tourney -- something that makes fourth-year coach Wayne Mook a proud man.
"Every year we've been represented at the state tournament, and every year we look to keep that streak going," said Mook. "Hopefully, this year will be no different."
Severna Park finished second in the county and third in the district last season, but will compete this year without the help of stalwart Pete Regala, who graduated.
Junior Todd Morgan and sophomore David Orso return for Severna Park after qualifying for the states last season. Orso was the most impressive of the Falcons at the states as he finished ninth at the College Park course.
Senior transferBrian Bowman from Escondido, Calif., has been impressive in the preseason, and along with with junior Jason Lonchar, will round out Severna Park's top four list.
Old Mill coach Bruce Lawton says he has been "beating the bushes" to try and get people out for his golf team.As a result, some of his players just may find themselves beating the bushes this season in an effort to improve their lie.
"Old Mill doesn't have the kids who play country club ball, so it's tough to compete with Broadneck and Arundel," said Lawton. "Realistically, I'd like to finish third or fourth in the county tournament. A couple of teams are really loaded up like Broadneck and Arundel, and Severna Park is borderline."
Seniors Rick Lynard, Phil White, Matt Pharr, Matt Hoffman and Matt Caulk will tee off for the Patriots along with Chad Robuck, who played for Old Mill as a sophomore and spent last year at Arch bishop Spalding.
After winning the B Division title the past two years, John Bereznak's Meade squad will get a chance to compete in the A Division.
Although he initially thought the move up would be "a good one" for his Mustangs, Bereznak since has reconsidered and probably would opt to take a "Mulligan" this season.
"I lost my No. 1 guy to academics, another to the cross country team and a third to a military transfer," lamented the 14-year veteran coach. "We're in a constant state of flux here at Meade.
"Other schools don't have to deal with that. They can expect kids to stay there two to four years, and sometimes I have a kid here for a couple of months, and then he's gone."
Present for the moment are senior Laureano Santiago and junior Chris Layton, both of whom Bereznak feels will qualify for the states.
While Meade prepares for life in the A Division, South River will reverse roles and participate in B Division play, which begins at 3 p.m. today at Eisenhower.