Featuring the PCL's only two returning members of

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Featuring the PCL's only two returning members of the all-league team, Mogadore once again opens the year as the team to beat.

The Wildcats gave a preview this past week of what is to come when they hosted the Wildcat Invitational at West's Mogadore Country Club.

"After seeing them at their tournament, there is no doubt in my mind they will be hard to beat," said Woodridge coach Woody Merriam. "They are very solid."

Led by senior Mike McClary's 2-over-par 72, the Wildcats ran away with the tournament in record fashion.

McClary, a senior long-ball hitter who holds down the No. 1 spot, is Mogadore's top returnee and one of the league's two returning All-PCL members.

The other is senior Gary Hartman, who earned a spot on the all-league team last year as a member of the rival Field Falcons.

Hartman transferred to Mogadore in the offseason, and his addition should make the 'Cats hard to beat.

"Those are two good kids at the top," said Mogadore co-head coach Tom McClary, who is Mike's father. "Mike swings for the sky and Gary is more of a finesse player. We knew we'd have a lot of (young golfers) on this year's team, but once we knew Gary was going to be here, I knew we'd be O.K. He was a good move over. His parents are Mogadore people, and he's a real good kid."

With McClary and Hartman in place, the Wildcats should have a good shot at challenging for a third-straight undefeated regular season in the PCL. Last year, Mogadore's perfect regular season was spoiled with a loss to Southeast at the league meet.

"Really, we are so young, not many people remember much about that disappointment," said McClary.

The Wildcats may be young behind their top two, but they are also solid. Sophomore Troy Brooks, who played in half the team's matches last season, is considered the most improved player on the team by coaches McClary and Norm Lingle. In the Wildcat Invitational, Brooks, the team's No. 3 man, shot a 79 despite a double bogey on the final hole.

Rounding out the roster are first-year junior Aaron Davis, sophomore John Wilson, and returning letterwinners, junior Craig Bramlett and sophomore Bryan Pratt.

If Mogadore is to be challenged in the PCL National Division, the team to watch could be the Rootstown Rovers.

"Rootstown didn't lose anyone from last season," said McClary. "They are the team that could beat us. I think when we play them it will be a very good match."

The Rovers are loaded with 23 golfers (11 freshmen) on this year's roster, including their top six players from last year _ juniors Jeff Eckenwiler (second team All-PCL), Ryan Stelzer and T.J. Riggie, and seniors Nick Kazaglis (second team All-PCL), Mike Evanovich and Kiel Sever.

"We gained a lot of experience and surprised many last season by finishing third overall," said Rootstown head coach Keith Waesch. "However, the kids aren't satisfied and worked hard all summer long."

Eckenwiler, a consistent ball-striker, keeps the ball in the fairway and is back as the team's No. 1.

"Jeff isn't fancy, but gets the job done," said Waesch. "In reality though, we have five golfers who are capable of being the team's medalist on any given day.

"We've gotten things rolling at Rootstown over the past three years, but we haven't reached our ultimate goal yet. We know Mogadore will be tough to dethrone in our division and they're the favorite until proven otherwise."

Junior Joe Orr and senior Rich Scott provide depth for the Rovers.

Waterloo could also make some noise in the National Division.

First-year coach Susan Berry takes over a Vikings' team that features an interesting mix of youth and experience.

Leading the returnees is junior No. 1 Jason Markham, a long hitter who is consistently in the low 40s. The Vikings also return junior Steve Tannert and lone senior Jason Zachariah.

Waterloo has three promising sophomores in the lineup, including Keith Ellsworth, Zach Kachner and Phil Mayfield.

"I hope we do very well," said Berry. "I know with a young team, sometimes you are not going to score real well, but I think this team can be very competitive. These boys have a real enthusiasm for the game, and they are constantly improving."

Merriam is also looking to field a competitive team at Woodridge.

The lineup is led by a pair of returning seniors _ No. 1 man Jarrod Mayer and No. 3 Ken Shook (second team All-PCL).

The Bulldogs' hopes for the future involve sophomore Mark Young, a player Merriam said "has great potential. He has a good all around game. He'll be a good one."

Junior Ryan Odell is improving into a player Merriam hopes can shoot consistently in the mid 80s.

Windham coach Dino Manno is looking for improvement from the Bombers in what could be considered a rebuilding year.

"Sometimes you call years like this rebuilding," said Manno. "I'm hoping to give a lot of young guys some experience so that we can come back stronger than ever next year."

The experience on the Bombers team comes from senior Rick Waggoner, who is in his third year as a starter for the Bombers. Sophomore Zach Thomas, the team's only other returning letterwinner, is coming off a promising freshman year.

Windham's lineup will include freshmen Kyle Stanley and Matt Long, a

straight hitter with unusual course-managing skills for a first-year

player, and first-year senior Tim Powell. Junior David Miller did not

win a letter last season, but Manno hopes he can add some

experience.

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