Repeat performance? Olympus boys golf looks for top honors again
Aug 29, 2018 10:49AM
● By Jana Klopsch
Olympus boys golf looking for a repeat performance from last year. (Contributed)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
It’s been quite a 12-month ride for Matt Barnes.
The Olympus High School coach has been at the helm of two state titles since last school year. Now, he’s ready to defend the first of those two championships.
Barnes, who guided the Olympus boys basketball team to a dominant undefeated season and Class 5A state title this past winter, was also at the helm of the boys golf program, which also won the state crown last fall. The team is back on the course for the 2018 campaign, and Barnes is cautiously optimistic about the prospects.
“We’ve got an OK chance to repeat,” he said. “I always think we have a chance.”
Last season, Olympus narrowly beat out Viewmont by a single stroke for top honors at state. This season, the team returns a quartet of competitors who were all significant contributors a year ago.
Senior Zack Neff is arguably the top golfer on the team. Last year at state, he beat out everyone in the tournament for the top individual score at the two-day event. Fellow senior John Fox, whom Barnes said was a “big part of the team last year,” shot a 150 at state, good enough for third on the team. Meanwhile, sophomore Luke Smith played at state as a ninth-grader last season, where he shot a 166. Basketball standout Rylan Jones, who has already committed to play for the University of Utah, is no slouch on the golf course either. The senior shot a 170 at state and will be a key player this season for the Titans.
Barnes said he has three or four other solid contributors in the mix. He admits he doesn’t have to do quite as much coaching on the golf course as he does on the basketball court. He said he lets the players know when and where matches are and what time the bus leaves. Other than that, he says the players push themselves to get better.
“Golf is one where it’s all on the kids,” he said. “I’m a guy who organizes and lets the kids know the plan. I just keep them going.”
Unlike previous seasons when many of Barnes’ players took up golf as more of an on-the-side activity, he now has more players than ever who play year-round and who devote even more serious effort to the game. He’s even coached young men who had never played before. That isn’t the case this season.
“It’s nice the last couple of years to have three or four kids who can really play,” he said. “I had never had that many that were really into golf.”
Neff and Fox, for example play Jr. Golf throughout the year and have become accustomed to performing in high-pressure events. They’ve learned how to handle challenging situations because they’ve gone up against top players from around the region.
Barnes also said that while golf is an individual sport, it has a team component because a team’s success depends on how well each player does. Olympus had a successful run last season because the players were positive with one another and encouraged one another to do their best.
“The other kids are pushing each other and pulling for each other to do well,” Barnes said. “It’s fun when you have a good team because every score matters. One stroke can make a big difference.”
Olympus has already gotten its season underway. The Class 5A state tournament is set for Oct. 3 and 4 at Glen Eagle in Syracuse.