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Sophomore Hunter North chips onto the green in the South Laurel Invitational Thursday at London Country Club. There is only one senior on the Jaguars’ roster.

School has not started yet, but golf season began this week. Thursday, the South Laurel Invitational was held at London Country Club with 12 schools entering a total of 15 teams.

Corbin swept the top three individual spots in the tournament  and the team championship with a four-man score of 302. Somerset placed second at 315, followed by North Laurel at 323. South Laurel finished with a team score of 337.

“We are a young team with a lot of talent.  It is early in the season but inconsistent play has been our problem thus far and consistency is key to golf,” South Laurel Coach Steve King said. King is in his first year with the Cardinals, replacing Bill Sergent at the helm.

“I’m excited and proud to be their new coach.  They are a great group of young men that represent their team, their school and their community well,” King said.

Individual honors Thursday went to Cody Ellis of Corbin with a 74. His closest competition came from teammates Alex Davis with a 75 and Conner Maguet with a 76. Sophomore Zach Royster shot the low score for South Laurel with a 77.

“I’m proud of Zach today.  He had some bumpy spots in his round where he had a string of bad holes but he hung in there, gutted it out, kept his composure, didn’t quit and posted a good score of 6-over 77,” King said. “In our last tournament, Trey Martin was our low man with a 4-over 76 but he struggled a bit today.”

There are three seniors on this year’s roster: Jake Arnold, Logan Bray, and Austin Herron. Juniors include Plinio Tuta, Logan Belt, and Tanner Sibert.

“Jake Arnold has improved a lot over the summer and has played well.  Tanner Sibert played great at North Laurel’s tournament last Tuesday at Crooked Creek with an 81 but had an off day today.  We are just too inconsistent right now for me to predict how the rest of the year will go but I know we have talent throughout the entire team,” King said.

South Laurel also has three sophomores in Vince Holcomb, Martin, and Royster, along with seven middle school players.

“Competitive tournament golf is much different than going out and playing with your buddies.  You have to be able to get into tournament mode and then have the mental strength to keep that concentration throughout the long, grueling day.  I believe many of our players have that ability, it just takes time, maturity and experience to get there,” King said.

Estill County shot the low score among the junior varsity teams at 359 with Joe Benton leading the way at 86. The South Laurel junior varsity shot a 380 with Tad Barton as the low scorer at 92.

“Tad Barton led our JV squad today and, with only being an eighth grader this year, I expect him to grow into our one of our anchors in the future,” King said.

King said the tournament relied heavily on the support of local businesses, parents, and supporters to be successful.

“I especially want to thank the parents and family members that comprise our booster club organization.  They have been a wonderful group of people to work with and I appreciate their willingness to work hard,” he said.

Local businesses that contributed to the South Laurel Invitational included: Martin’s Peterbilt, Pepsi, Phil McDonald Insurance, Ranson Electric, Shoe-Inn, Thompson Drug, Tincher-Williams, Benqueil’s Jewelry, El Dorado,  Kentucky Auto Exchange, Lowe’s Sporting Goods, Deboralyn Property’s, Kim’s Frozen Yogurt, Kentucky Farm Bureau, Dr. Bill Lester,  London Pet Lodge, Souls Harbor Church, JP Tech, Metal Products Inc.,  Laurel Grocery, Kroger- North Main St., and several others.

King said he also appreciated the support of Bill Robinson, Mike Kissel, and London Country Club for use of their facility.

“Not only do they allow us to practice and play at London Country Club but letting us hold our tournament there creates our largest fundraising event and we will use the proceeds to provide equipment and opportunities for our team to get better and enjoy the game of golf,” King said. “Golf is a great game that can teach a young person many things that will serve them well in life and, without this group’s support, we could not provide this opportunity to these young men.”

MHOWARD@sentinel-echo.com

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