MURRAY — Once again, Murray High is entering s golf season boasting one of the largest rosters in western Kentucky.
On the boys’ side, the Tigers are sending 14 players onto the links. On the girls’ side, and perhaps much to the envy of almost every team west of the Beaver Dam rest area on the Western Kentucky Parkway, Murray High is fielding 10, a very high number these days for girls’ teams.
Now, what Head Coach Denise Whitaker and her players want is to have these healthy numbers translate into strong success, on both sides. The Lady Tigers have had this market cornered for several years and should notch an 11th straight Kentucky All “A” Region 1 title this season, simply because no one else has a full team. What Whitaker really wants to see now is the boys rise to the top.
“We haven’t really talked about it as much with the girls, but we are kind of talking about it on the boys’ side,” Whitaker said. “We would love to see the boys win it this year, so that’s kind of been our talk… ‘Let’s go boys! Let’s win All-A this year! We’re challenging them this year.”
Leading the boys’ attack is a player who has done damage overall in Region 1 in senior Grant Whitaker, who has the capability of uncorking a big day at any time. He has help in the form of several players that have already shown improvement with a year of maturity.
Senior Tucker Blane, freshman Ian Dahncke and junior Reed Jarvis have all been recording lower scores than this time last year. However, there are other Tigers that are capable of contributing with Connor McCuiston and Scott Winchester being veterans of the team.
It is also clear that these players are bent on being better.
“We had an 18-hole tournament (at Calvert City last week) and Ian, Scott and Connor were all out (at Murray Country Club) that night after playing 18 holes that day to work on their game,” Whitaker said of those three players.
Multi-sport athlete Kobe Watson, a sophomore, can play, as can juniors Will McCoil and Derrick Hill. Elias Houck and Wyatt Leatherwood are eighth graders, Jacob Muehleman is a seventh grader. Lincoln English is a junior, and they all have the same thing in common.
They were recruited to be part of the team in the past year or two, which is a familiar story with the Murray High program. All one has to do is look at the girls’ program.
The Lady Tigers’ roster has been dotted with players who joined the program simply because players already on the team asked them to be part of the action. This year, it has happened again with seventh grader Skylar Watson. freshman Greer Miller, sophomore Gray Martin and seventh grader Riley Morris all joining the team for the first time, continuing the tradition that has become the staple of this program — growth through in-house recruiting.
“It’s fun. It’s about friends and having a good time, and representing Murray High,” Whitaker said. “Some of these girls we have this year were out here for a little bit last year but not ‘officially.’ These players we already have on the team just kept telling them, ‘Hey! We need you’ and just kept encouraging them. You also have to give credit to our parents too for talking to the other parents and saying, ‘We need your daughter out here!’”
Murray High has already won two events this year, but there are signs that more success may come against the few programs fielding larger squads. The core of sophomores Emerson Vaughn and Macy Saylor and junior Jansyn Hays is still intact with Vaughn already having taken a medalist crown. All three are capable of big days, though.
Freshman Amelie Johnson got better as the season continued last year and is joined by senior Catherine Kim and senior Ella Bryant.
“We got three experienced players in Emerson, Macy and Jansyn that played a few years with (former standouts Mary Browder Howell and Claire Whitaker, who the Lady Tigers to a Kentucky High School Athletic Association State Tournament berth in 2020) and know how to go out and compete in these tournaments and do well,” Whitaker said of a trio that led the Lady Tigers to a fourth-place finish at last year’s All “A” state tourney.
Murray High’s next event will be the Christian County Invitational today at Western Hills Golf Club in Hopkinsville.