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story.lead_photo.caption Graham Thomas/Herald-Leader Members of the Siloam Springs girls and boys golf teams listen as golf head coach Michael Robertson gives instructions prior to practice on July 26. The Panthers and Lady Panthers are set to open the season Monday and Tuesday at the Ultimate Auto Group High School Invitational at Big Creek Golf and Country Club in Mountain Home.

The Siloam Springs boys and girls golf teams will begin their 2018 seasons on Monday and Tuesday at the Ultimate Auto Group High School Invitational at Big Creek Golf and Country Club in Mountain Home.

Girls

Siloam Springs golf

2018 schedule

Date^Opponent^Location^Time

Aug. 6-7^Ultimate Auto Group High School Invitational^Big Creek^TBA

Aug. 13^at Rogers (vs. Bentonville West)^Lost Springs^3:30 p.m.

Aug. 20^vs. Rogers Heritage, Springdale^Siloam Springs Country Club^3:30 p.m.

Aug. 21^at Van Buren^Eagle Crest^3:30 p.m.

Aug. 23^at Greenwood^Ben Geren^Noon

Aug. 27^vs. Alma, Bentonville West^Siloam Springs Country Club^3:30 p.m.

Aug. 30^at Rogers Heritage^Prairie Creek^10 a.m.

Sept. 4^at Harrison^Harrison Country Club^1:30 p.m.

Sept. 6^at Bentonville^Bella Vista^3:30 p.m.

Sept. 8^Lyle Licht Fundraiser Tournament^Siloam Springs Country Club^TBA

Sept. 10^vs. Springdale Har-Ber, Van Buren^Siloam Springs Country Club^3:30 p.m.

Sept. 13^at Alma^River Valley Golf^3:30 p.m.

Sept. 17^5A-West Conference Tournament^Ben Geren^TBA

Sept. 20^at Fayetteville (vs. Greenwood)^Fayetteville Country Club^9 a.m.

Sept. 26^at Girls State Tournament^Hot Springs Country Club^TBA

Oct. 2^at Boys State Tournament^Paragould Country Club^TBA

The Lady Panthers are coming off their best season in club history after finishing as Class 6A state runner-up to state champion Greenwood in 2017.

"Obviously last year was a real exciting year, finishing the highest in school history," said golf coach Michael Robertson. "We want to build off of that."

Siloam Springs returns four golfers who played in last year's state tournament in seniors McKenzie Blanchard, Kaitlyn Robinson, Jaelee Snyder and Kendall McCormick. The Lady Panthers lost graduated all-state senior in Brinkley Beever, who was also 6A individual runner-up in 2017 and sophomore Makenna Thomas, who decided to focus on volleyball.

The returning playing experience will be valuable this season as changes in rules and formats dictate that girls matches will only play four varsity spots and count three, instead of the five varsity spots and count three from years past.

Blanchard battled through some shoulder issues toward the end of last season but is back healthy, Robertson said.

"At the end of the year she didn't finish like she wanted to, but she had some shoulder issues she really battled through," Robertson said. "She knew how important it was to battle through. She's really healthy now. She's played really well this summer. Typical for her, she's been all over the country on trips but she's worked really hard in practice and been super consistent. She's definitely been our most consistent player. I expect her to continue that through. She's going to be a leader for us. I expect her to have a good year."

Robinson was an all-state golfer in 2017, who finished sixth in the state overall last year. Robinson also has played a lot of golf this summer.

"She's driven," Robertson said. "She wants to play at the next level. She's put the time in. I'm excited to see where she is once we get out on course. She has a lot of playing experience in high school and events throughout summer."

Robertson is pleased with the progress McCormick has made.

"(McCormick) hits it as far as anybody on the team," he said. "She's been in the 3-4-5-6 range for us last year depending on the day. She seems to be more consistent this summer and definitely hitting it a lot better."

Snyder was in a similar position as McCormick last year on the back end of the Lady Panthers' scoring sheet.

"We're really going to need her to take a step forward this year," Robertson said. "That would be the test for Kendall and Jaelee. They've got to take a step up and be a key varsity girl that scores well every day. It's going to be a challenge for both of them. I'm excited to see where they are.

Juniors Kendi Williamson and Chloe Rocha and sophomore Julia Jackson round out the roster.

Rocha, who also plays softball, was a pleasant surprise on the first day of practice and has a lot of natural ability to hit the ball.

"She's slowly learning how to play golf," Robertson said.

Williamson played last year and has taken huge steps forward.

"It's amazing how far she's come," Robertson said. "She continues to take steps."

Another change this season will be the change in classification. Siloam Springs moves to Class 5A. The largest 16 schools in all sports except football, are now Class 6A, with the next 32 biggest schools in Class 5A, and the next 32 in 4A and so on.

With the added teams instead of last year's 16 in what was Class 6A, it will make for a more competitive field.

The Lady Panthers will play in the 5A-West Conference Golf Tournament at Ben Geren Golf Course in Fort Smith on Sept. 17 with the hopes of qualifying for the Class 5A State Girls Tournament at Hot Springs Country Club on Sept. 26.

"There's some unknowns with the change in classification," Robertson said. "We haven't been in this group in six years. I do know there's some really talented individuals and teams. We'll use the same formula we've always used and play a tough schedule with good courses and try to get better and play our best golf at the end. For most part I think our kids have done a good job at that."

Boys

The Panthers have 14 boys on the roster, but only five will be able to play in varsity matches, and of those five, four will count toward the team score.

The total number of boys players is down a bit from previous years, Robertson said.

"The quantity of boys is down and has been dwindling a little bit," he said. "We don't have a lot of kids playing golf in town, but we're doing things to remedy that."

Siloam Springs, which finished seventh in Class 6A last season, has four seniors in Chase Beyer, Karson Clement, Trey Jackson and Josh Johnson.

Clement was the Panthers' top finisher as a junior last season and is expected to lead the way for the Panthers in 2018.

"No doubt it starts with Karson Clement at top," Robertson said. "He's a four-year, full-time starter. Karson has had an awesome summer. He has really taken the jump and taken leadership on the team. He's had an active summer and played a lot of events and played well. Everything has been in the mid-to-upper 70s. You see the possibility of low-to-mid 70s right there in his grasp."

Beyer and Johnson have both played quite a bit of varsity action the last three seasons for Siloam Springs.

"Both of them have a lot of natural ability and natural talent," Robertson said. "They've played a lot of golf and been raised around golf. You see flashes of really, really great play. We're going to need them to show more of those really bright moments this season. They're no longer the guys that can fill in a good score. They've both got to play well."

Evan Sauer, the team's only junior, hopes to join the varsity rotation after playing quite a bit as a sophomore.

"He's a good athlete and a great kid," Robertson said. "He played really well early last season and had moments throughout the season where you could see it all come together. We need that early and often this year. He's no longer that guy in the five-to-six spot. He needs to be a top four guy."

Jackson, the Panthers' fourth senior, has had limited varsity experience but could be counted on this season to fill a spot.

"He's competing for a varsity spot," Robertson said. "It's the same thing as all the other guys. You see moments where he plays well and moments with inconsistencies. He's worked hard this summer and put in a lot of time. The next few weeks are going to be really big for him."

A host of sophomores and one freshman are also getting time out on the course.

Sophomores Max Perkins, Breck Soderquist, Chris Svebek, Ethan Owens, Owen Thomas and Nick Gray are all guys that have shown major improvement from a year ago, their coach said.

"They're great kids who love playing golf and that's really fun," Robertson said. "They're all right on the edge. All those guys, if they continue to improve, they're right on the older guys' heels. I'm really excited about future with those guys.

Sophomores Nathan Lee, Jacob Smith and freshman Miles Perkins are also getting better, Robertson said, and need to continue to improve throughout the season.

"We're excited to watch them continue to get better," he said.

Like the girls, the boys will play in the conference tournament on Sept. 17 in Fort Smith. The Class 5A Boys State Tournament is Oct. 2 at Paragould Country Club.

"I'm excited to see our boys take a step forward and hopefully do something fun and exciting," Robertson said.

Sports on 08/05/2018

Print Headline: Golf teams ready to tee off

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