Seasoned Athens golf team eyes states, young Troy group retooling

By: Timothy Pontzer | Troy Times | Published May 15, 2018

 Troy High junior Jayson Youn, left, and sophomore Will Smalley pose together before a May 9 match at Sanctuary Lake Golf Course. The two serve as team captains for the Colts.

Troy High junior Jayson Youn, left, and sophomore Will Smalley pose together before a May 9 match at Sanctuary Lake Golf Course. The two serve as team captains for the Colts.

Photo by Timothy Pontzer

TROY — On the course, it is a tale of two outlooks in the same city.

For the Troy Athens golf program, the group looks to achieve something for the first time in a quarter-century.

“This year, our chief goal is to make it from regionals to states,” Athens coach Dan Cooper said before a May 9 practice at Sanctuary Lake Golf Course. “We have a tough regional, but if you look at how we’re playing in some invitationals and tournaments against the teams we’ll see there, we’re right there. It’s a realistic goal to make (it) in the top three.”

Athens will join Troy High May 30 at Twin Lakes Golf Club in Oakland Township for a Division 1 regional. Rochester High, Rochester Adams, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Lake Orion High, Bloomfield Hills High and a host of Macomb County schools will battle in the 20-team field for the coveted top three spots and a ticket to the state finals.

The last time Athens advanced from a regional was 1993. While none of his current players were alive back then, Cooper considers this to be one of the best all-around groups the Red Hawks have had since that point.

“Our strength is in the depth,” Cooper said. “When we play a dual match against somebody, what I do is take whoever finishes last of the six and have them sit for the next event. It makes it incredibly competitive, and it’s healthy for the team. Our scores are very tight, from one-over-par to around 41.”

With eight players on the roster, Cooper employs four seniors, a junior, a sophomore and two freshmen. He said the youth provide a spark to a well-rounded lineup, but the Red Hawks follow the lead of senior Grant Weidman.

“Grant is a terrific golfer who leads by example,” Cooper said. “We can count on him for a 37 or 38 every single day. He’s done such a good job this year.”

A four-year varsity player, Weidman said he relishes his role as team captain.

“I enjoy being able to have the younger guys look up to me,” Weidman said. “I enjoy being a role model for them and showing what competitive golf is all about.”

Also a standout on the soccer team, Weidman believes Athens has a chance to earn a spot at states.

“I would say the team’s biggest strength is how everyone is always pushing one another,” Weidman said. “There are a lot of golfers on the team who shoot around the same score, so we’re pushing each other to do better in the matches. Our goal is to win the league events and make it to states. If everyone plays well, we should have no problem.”

Cooper said a tough league schedule in the Oakland Activities Association White Division will help prepare the Red Hawks for the regional.

“There is so much talent in Oakland County. I’d stack it up against any other county in the state,” Cooper said. “Sanctuary Lake is a great place to get better, too. It’s a great course and they’re very generous. We thank them for everything they’ve done for the boys and girls teams for both our program and Troy High. Neither of us could survive without that generosity.”

Troy High in developmental stage
Troy High coach John Getzan agreed, praising Sanctuary Lake before heading out for a match with Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day May 9.

The Colts have four juniors, a sophomore and a freshman on varsity, setting up a unique challenge for Getzan.

“I’ve never had a team without a senior,” said Getzan, now in his 16th year at the helm of the program. “On top of that, we only graduated one guy last year. We just hit a brief lull. It’s based on who shows up, and this just happened to be a class where we didn’t have big numbers.”

Getzan named junior Jayson Youn and sophomore Will Smalley captains of the young group.

“We work very hard in the offseason and try to pass down any tips and knowledge we have to the younger kids,” Youn said. “Right now it’s more of a developmental stage for everyone, and we’re all trying to get as much experience as we can.”

Smalley agreed.

“Even though we’re young, we have a lot of talent,” Smalley said. “You can’t be good right away, and it takes years and years of practice for golf. The freshmen and sophomores coming in have solid swings already and a lot of raw talent. Our biggest task is to get better for next year. We don’t lose any seniors, so we’ll target next year to make a run to states.”

Getzan likened his group of youngsters to what is happening down at Comerica Park.

“We have a really good base coming in, and I’m excited for it,” Getzan said. “I see a lot in the kids, and they have a real desire and want to get better. We’re like the Tigers. This is a rebuilding year, but the future is bright. We try to keep expectations in line with reality. This year, the goal is simply to get better every day.”