Warren JFK sophomore Katie Rogner is a player to watch.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
If Boardman High junior golfer Tim Morrow appears focused, it's because he's weathered the pressure of the state tournament in his first two years of varsity competition.
"Last year there were a bunch of people following everybody; that was the first time that's happened to me," remembered Morrow, who qualified with the Spartans' team as a freshman and as an individual last season.
"But I learned to take that [distraction] out and concentrate and sort of get into a zone," he added. "Zone everything out but the course."
As the 2004 high school golf season has gotten under way, Morrow is the area's only returning state qualifier -- boys or girls.
Did Morrow, who's targeting his third straight trip to Columbus, ever imagine he'd be in this position?
"I think about it, but I don't know," said Morrow, who tied for 10th at state last year. "At sectionals, you get one chance. At districts, you get one chance. I don't know how I did it."
You could start with consistency, both in his swing (refined by his dad, Tim) and with his putting.
"I just need to keep the same swing that I have and don't lose the range," Morrow said. "A lot of my friends say it's ugly, but I don't care. It doesn't bother me."
Boardman coach Brian Terlesky said that Morrow thrives on his short game.
"Even if he doesn't hit the ball well all day he can still shoot in the high 70s," the coach said. "His short game is phenomenal. He has a great touch around the green."
Morrow enters his junior season with a greater leadership role on a team that includes core golfers Anthony Forde and Ben Nagle, both seniors, junior Nick Sainato and freshman Mike Lower.
"He works with the younger kids," Terlesky said of Morrow. "He knows every swing is not the same, but he gives them a tip. He's like another coach out there. The kids on the team know how good he is, and they rely on him as well."
Morrow also has added to his tournament tests, having played over the summer in Florida and Virginia.
"The competition was better down there, and it made me a little better," he said. "There was a lot of wind, and the greens were fast."
Morrow has been scoring around par. He opened the season with a team-best 77 in the Federal League tournament at Tannenhauf Golf Course in Alliance, where Boardman finished third.
"He works on his game constantly," Terlesky said. "He's dedicated to the fullest."
Morrow hopes that work ethic will land him another trip to the state capital.
"It's opened his eyes," Terlesky said of the state berths. "Each year kids are getting better and better. He understands that he has to focus more."
Lakeview junior Laura Nochta leads a talented group of area golfers that includes Cardinal Mooney senior Mollie Boney and Warren JFK sophomore Katie Rogner.
"Those three girls will probably be pretty close together," JFK coach Tom Rider said.
Rider said that Nochta is a well-balanced golfer with few weaknesses, while Boney should thrive in the leadership role at Mooney.
And what about his golfer, Rogner?
"You can pretty much count on her shooting between 75 and 80 every time," Rider said. "She doesn't hit it real long, but she's pretty consistent off the tee and her irons are really good."
In the Massillon Jackson Invitational two weeks ago, Rogner shot 76 to finish two strokes behind winner Kathleen Ekey of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, who tied for seventh at state last year.
"A big smile came across her face," Rider said of Rogner. "We'll take that score in October in a minute."