Byron Nelson’s golf team will have some familiar and talented faces returning to the courses this fall, but there’s still room for a few new faces.
Depth is a virtue for head coach Barry Hawkins, as the Bobcats boys team will have a core of 8-10 players who could step in to be a part of the party-of-five at tournaments.
Leading the way for Nelson are seniors Johnny Jones and Haydon Smith.
Smith finished third at the state tournament last spring and both he and Jones are committed to play at Texas Tech next year. The two are also team captains and have proven themselves already during their play at Nelson, said Hawkins.
With the two seniors entrenched in the lineup, and the loss of three seniors to graduation, a battle will commence to fill the open three positions.
“We have a little bit of depth, but not quite as much as in the past,” Hawkins said. “With the eight or more other guys, we could have a different five in every tournament.”
Hawkins noted that the depth may be there, but he’d prefer stability. He said he feels there may be some confidence amongst the team during tournament play. “I think the team comes to depend on others when they play enough rounds with the same guys.
“But it’s a different dynamic,” Hawkins said. “We used to know our top five, day in, day out.”
Competition may well create greater skill development as the season progresses, however.
Improvement will be key as Nelson makes the jump not only to class 6A, but into a district which will be decidedly tougher than in the past.
With teams such as Denton Guyer, Keller and Northwest aligning with the Bobcats in the district, just qualifying for the ultra-tough regional meet will be difficult.
The revamped region will include Carroll, Mansfield and McKinney Boyd. “It’s got to be the toughest regional in the state,” said Hawkins. “It used to be an expectation we were the team to beat. We’re still one of the teams you’ll have to consider, though. But we’re up to the challenge. We have the regional and state tournament experience.”
The girls are in much the same situation.
Nelson will have Alexandra Batista back as a junior. She was a top 10 finisher at the state tournament last year as a sophomore.
Senior leadership will come from Sabrina Stedman, who also has state tournament experience from last season’s spring meet.
The Lady Bobcats will look to another senior, Jennifer Dixon, to make a name for herself after making it to the regional tournament last season.
Although the Nelson girls won’t have quite the depth, freshman move-in Madison Koen could help fill in the roster when competitions come up for the fall season.
The Bart Granger Classic at Pecan Valley will be up first on the schedule. The 54-hole event is one of the largest tournaments in the country and will be held in late September. The girls will lead off with a tournament in Granbury.