Athens golf looking to make an impact

By: Mark Vest | Troy Times | Published April 16, 2019

 Troy Athens freshman Lance Harwood takes a swing during a recent outing. Athens coach Dan Cooper said he feels really good about the team he has to work with this season.

Troy Athens freshman Lance Harwood takes a swing during a recent outing. Athens coach Dan Cooper said he feels really good about the team he has to work with this season.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Athens junior Mason Teeter eyes the ball during a past outing.

Athens junior Mason Teeter eyes the ball during a past outing.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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TROY — On occasion, Troy Athens boys golf coach Dan Cooper has his players take a look at the banners in the school’s gymnasium.

It is what they won’t see that can be the attention grabber.

The Red Hawks haven’t won an Oakland Activities Association division championship or qualified for the state finals in many years, and Cooper wants his players to take notice.

“I show (them), ‘Hey, look, we haven’t won the league in 20 years. We haven’t won a regional in 22 years or something,’” Cooper said. “I go, ‘Look, here’s one of our goals; here’s two of our goals. Let’s change this. We can put your year up here. You can come back. You can bring your kids back and show them, ‘Look, I had something to do with that.’ It’s part of our incentive.”

The Red Hawks are in the OAA White this year.

After having what Cooper said was a senior-heavy team last season, this current squad is “real young.”

And although there are no seniors on the roster, he has a positive outlook about the team.

“We got a real good group,” Cooper said. “I’ve got eight guys that are between par and 42. And the next bunch, the JV bunch, are like 45 through 51, which is respectable golf. But I had a couple of wonderful surprises.”

Athens’ top five golfers are juniors Vince Tran, Carson Eads and Mason Teeter, along with sophomore Bennett Lewis and freshman Lance Harwood.

Harwood is one of Athens’ “wonderful surprises.”

“I’m not putting any pressure on Lance, but this kid, the freshman, he was out playing in summer travel tournaments last summer against college golfers as an eighth-grader, and it shows,” Cooper said. “He has no fear. … He’s a big kid. … He just tees it up. Doesn’t think about it, turns around and uncoils and smashes the ball 275, 280 (yards). For a 14-year-old freshman, he is impressive.”

Still, Cooper knows of the realities that come with inexperience.

“Now, the only guys with varsity experience from last year’s team are Vincent Tran and Bennett Lewis,” Cooper said. “The other guys were JV last year, or in middle school. So we’ll see. Pressure tells a lot, and that’s what we don’t know yet.”

Cooper said it’s “a bit of a rebuilding” season, but he added that he is excited.

“We got a chance to do something,” Cooper said. “And sometimes guys without experience come through. They don’t know to be scared. That’s what I’m hoping that we’re looking at, is guys that don’t know enough to be nervous.”

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