In 3rd year, Eagles soar to state tournament With steady improvement F.S. Key golf team qualifies for first time

October 19, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

Mike Darr remembers his first year on the Francis Scott Key golf team. He was a freshman, and good enough to be No. 1 for a school in its first year of fielding a team in the sport.

Three of the top four on the current team were on that first one, and although the players have had varying degrees of success, the team has shown steady improvement. It has gone from a losing record to 10-3 last year and to 12-4 this season.

In each of the past two years, it has won the state District V title for the Class 1A-2A schools. Where the Eagles missed the state tournament qualifying score by 13 shots a year ago, however, they made it this year with a score of 341 against the 350 cutoff.

Key and Westminster (with a team of Ryan Angell, Wade Shaw, Brett Whitson and Jon-David Byers) will be the county representatives at the state tournament, due tomorrow and Tuesday at the University of Maryland Golf Course in College Park.

Third-year Key coach Bill Welch will send out senior Steven Webb, juniors Bryan Brilhart and Darr and sophomore Jason Cashen. Brilhart and Darr have been with the program from the beginning, while Cashen is new this season after having played JV soccer last fall.

Webb remembers Welch issuing a call for interested players in the spring of his freshman year. Many responded, but there were only about a half-dozen who were genuinely interested. Welch, with the cooperation of Bear Creek GC personnel, got the players started then so they would be ready in the fall.

Darr, who comes from a family where golf was a part of growing up, fit right in from the beginning, but not without pushing some upper-class noses out of place. "The seniors used to 'rag' on him," Welch recalls, "but he took it."

Darr, who qualified for last year's state tournament as an individual, recalls: "We didn't concentrate that first year. We were good and didn't know it. Then, we won a couple of matches and found out we could compete.

"This season, Mr. Welch has worked with us and has encouraged us to practice more. I think we are more committed than before, and there has been a lot of improvement. For me personally, my dad is my inspiration. He's the one who started me and was my first teacher."

Brilhart, a left-hander, is another with a family golf background. His father (who started him in the game), mother and two older brothers play, and he has come along nicely as a player.

"I've picked up some distance," he says of his own game. Of the team, he adds: "I think we're stronger this year. We want it more."

Webb is a quality player, capable of good rounds, but whose chief interests are elsewhere. "My sophomore year, I wasn't so good, but I was good last year," he said.

This season? He shrugs, but admits to an interest in the tournament. He knows he's better than his 93 in the district tournament at Wakefield Valley GC.

Off early-season work, Welch expected Cashen to be good, but not to the extent he has produced. His position in the lineup -- LTC third behind Darr and Brilhart -- was thrust upon him when the expected No. 3, Scott Zentz, was sidelined after receiving a cracked vertebra and a dislocated shoulder in an automobile accident.

Cashen was a soccer fullback last season, but instead of taking a position this year when his chief interest was elsewhere, he opted for golf. "That way, they [soccer coaches] can train someone at the JV level who will go on to play on the varsity.

"I wasn't that enthusiastic, so I thought somebody else would be better in my place." Meanwhile, the golfer has two more varsity seasons ahead of him.

"I'm real comfortable off the tee, and my short game has improved," Cashen said, "but I'm still weak as a ball-striker. That's why it's nice to have a coach who knows the game."

Welch carries a 5-handicap and spends as much teaching time around the practice tee and the putting green as his players are willing to work. Right now their focus is on the state event, but Welch can't help smiling when he thinks about next year.

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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