The second time around should provide a smoother transition for Bentonville West’s golf teams this fall, but it won’t come without its share of challenges.
For instance, Wolverines coach Curt Yarrington had to cut players off his boys team before the season started.
“I’m carrying 15 boys,” Yarrington said. “That aspect of it, as far as evaluating, has been a little harder. Of course, that’s the worst part of coaching is making cuts, no matter what the sport.”
West has four of its top players return from the inaugural, and that group is led by Sam O’Brien. The junior took part in last year’s Class 7A state tournament and shot a two-day total of 174, and he has already shown improvement in his scoring this year.
Senior Caleb Becker, Ethan Martinez and Jayden Fielding also return this season.
“It’s funny to see these kids because you don’t see them for a couple of months,” Yarrington said. “Sam has probably grown 2 or 3 inches since I saw him last.
“Ethan has improved unbelievably. You’ve heard of people called gym rats, well, he’s a course rat because he’s always practicing and it’s paid off. Jayden has improved quite a bit from last year, as well.”
Yarrington was excited to see senior Bryce Lee on the course, but an ankle has put him out of activity for a while. Freshman Robbie Newton, who quit playing youth golf for a couple of years before resuming the sport, is pushing for varsity playing time, while Yarrington is hoping Gabe Bailey, Jack Brown and Caleb Wilkins can also push some of the older players for time on the course.
“We may not win any more matches than we did last year,” Yarrington said. “But we are going to make them closer.
“I think the mental side of the game is a strength, and that’s where I think I can help them out. I can tell them to have a short memory and learn from the mistakes they make. That’s what I’m hoping because I don’t know how many coaches stress that part, but I’m big on it.”
Bentonville West girls
The Lady Wolverines will get to field a team this year — something they didn’t do a majority of last season because they didn’t have enough players.
“At one point, I think we eventually had three players, which can count for a team,” Yarrington said. “This year, we have six. With that six, that allows us some flexibility.
“I still have some that are just starting the game, which is a little challenging, but it’s fun to see the improvement in them every day and that they get better each day. That part is fun.”
West will be led by Palak Ojha, who played last year in the Class 7A state tournament and finished with a two-day total of 195. Molly Myers also returns from last year, and Yarrington said she has shown noticeable improvement since last season.
The rest of the field are newcomers. Cierra Bowen, Katie Eddy, Kasey Sakamoto and Erica White will be in the mix for the Lady Wolverines’ No. 3 spot.
“I love their enthusiasm,” Yarrington said of his new golfers. “They all want to do this, and they are excited about it. They know they have a long way to go in order to be competitive, but they are willing to put in the work for it.
“They’re still learning the game. They’re still learning on ball striking and the rules. That will be the biggest factor. I think that because it’s so new, getting into matches and tournament situations, there’s going to be some nerves along the way.”