Trojans aiming to return to state golf

Southeastern golfer Avery Green lives just down the road from the Trojans’ home course of Locust Hills, which means he doesn’t have to go far for practice rounds.

And when he wants to work on his putting stroke, he doesn’t even have to leave home.

“My dad had an artificial green put in at our house, which has definitely helped me,” Green said of his step-father, Tim Manning. “It rolls really nice. I get out there on it as much as I can.”

The rectangular-shaped green is about the size of a normal family room with five holes in various spots.

“It’s good for the eight- and 10-foot putts, and those are important ones,” Green said.

The lanky junior doesn’t miss too many in that range, which is why he has qualified for the state the last two years, first as an individual and then with his team.

He finished in a tie for 14th after a pair of 84’s at the Ohio State Scarlet Course last year, well above his season norm. And Trojans were a disheartening 11th out of 12 teams in Division III. But the frigid conditions transformed the event from a battle of nerves for the participants to a battle with the elements.

The tourney was delayed by frost each day.

“I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, but Scarlet is tough,” Green said. “It was really cold and windy, and I wasn’t on my game. If you’re not on your game there, that course can eat you alive.”

Green doesn’t encounter many courses he can’t handle — even in tough conditions. He finished third in the Clark County Invitational a few weeks ago after winning it and being named county player of the year the previous two seasons. But while he came up short in his bid for a three-peat, the disappointment didn’t linger.

Shawnee’s Grant Engle shot a 70, Springfield’s Luke Wells a 71 and Green an even-par 72 at the Elks Golf Course, and it came down to the last hole where Engle and Wells birdied the closing par-5 and Green parred.

“It didn’t end like I wanted it to, but if I’m going to get beat, I’d want to get beat by one of those two guys or somebody like them who’s fun to play with,” Green said.

His all-around game — and steady demeanor — are why he’s gotten better each year. His nine-hole average was 37.2 as a freshman and 36.5 as a sophomore, and his goal this year is to whittle that to 36.0.

“He’s one of the most consistent golfers I’ve ever seen at this level,” sixth-year Southeastern coach Vince Banion said. “He’s got a really good short game. He’s solid off the tee. He putts really well. He has all the skills you need.

“We’re just fine-tuning, working on things like trajectory and shaping shots. He’s on a different level than everybody else.”

Green hopes to make a return trip to the state as a team, but that won’t be easy since the Trojans graduated three senior stalwarts.

Tray Thompson is back after playing in the state last year, while Chase Billet and Tyler Blankenship have been solid while holding down starting spots.

Banion has plenty of choices for his No. 5 player. He has a hefty 10 boys out for the team, and the program has elevated to the point where the Trojans have a full girls squad for the first time in years.

Millie Leonhard, a 2014 SE grad who once was the No. 2 golfer for the boys, is coaching the girls.

“They’re all first-year golfers, but they show a lot of potential,” Banion said. “We’ve had a couple girls in the mid-50s. I feel like by the time the tournament comes around, they’ll be competitive.”

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