Gilkison, Cloyd lead charge for Springboro boys golf

Springboro senior Josh Gilkison won the Ohio Junior Championship in July at Ashland Golf Club. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
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Springboro senior Josh Gilkison won the Ohio Junior Championship in July at Ashland Golf Club. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Credit: MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Credit: MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Josh Gilkison has done his best to avoid a fairway meltdown. That’s why the Springboro High School senior and standout golfer was relieved to verbally commit to Kent State University two weeks ago.

“(Recruiting) started after the end of my sophomore year,” he said Wednesday following an abbreviated 9-hole Lakota West Invitational at Brown’s Run Country Club in Middletown. “It’s really nice to not have that hanging over my head anymore. It’s all the pressure to have to play well because one bad tournament can take you off a coach’s radar.”

The boys and girls high school golf seasons opened last Friday, the first of the seven fall sports seasons to do so.

Springboro has made steady progress in a high-quality quest of winning its first state team title. The Panthers have qualified to the Division I state tourney each of the last three seasons, placing sixth, fifth and last season third.

Key to that consistent postseason play has been Gilkison. He’s grown to 6-foot-1 and has adjusted his swing every season to accommodate that rapid growth.

A four-year regular and longer off the tee than ever before, in 2015 Gilkison tied for ninth at state (77-78-155) and has considerably upped his game since. He won the Ohio Junior Championship in July at Ashland Golf Club, posting consecutive 72s to win by one stroke.

“It was a great field and it was against a lot of guys I’ll be playing against this fall,” said Gilkison, who chose Kent State over offers from Dayton, where his brother Jake is a sophomore player, and Ohio State. “It was good to know I can win and it was definitely a confidence booster.”

Also returning for Springboro is junior Jonathan Cloyd. Like Gilkison, Cloyd has been a fixture in the Panthers’ scoring for three seasons. Gilkison (35.80) ranked second to Vandalia-Butler senior Zach Crawford (35.56) in individual Greater Western Ohio Conference scoring last season. Through 36 holes Gilkison is first (34.50) and Cloyd second (37.50) in GWOC scoring this season.

Longtime Springboro coach Brad Smith has been succeeded by Justin Martin, previously the Panthers’ girls coach. Smith remains a teaching pro at Heatherwoode in Springboro and also is an assistant women’s coach at the University of Cincinnati.

• Another D-I state contender is youthful Centerville. Within seven strokes of Springboro after Day 1 at state last season, the Elks skied on Day 2 and slipped to fifth. However, all five members on that team return: seniors Cooper Jones and Adam Velasco, junior Dhaivat Pandya and sophomores A.J. Cherubini and Nick Clark.

• Two more D-I underclassmen are capable of often going low: Beavercreek junior Alex Flick and Carroll sophomore Tyler Goecke. Both were in contention for state individual berths last season. Goecke missed that cut by one stroke after leading the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed in scoring (36.00). He’s also the conference’s early scoring leader this season (33.00).

Both often place high in summer Midwest youth events and both are members of established area golf families. Flick is the son of former area teaching pro Tracy Hart-Flick, who died of health complications this year. Carroll plays its home matches at WGC in Xenia, whose longtime owners are the Goecke family.

• A successful season at Oakwood is measured by whether the Lumberjacks are crowned D-II state champions. That’s a testament to how the program has evolved. It also serves as extra incentive for an experienced team.

Oakwood won consecutive D-II state titles in 2009-10 and 2012-13. With four of its top five players returning, the Lumberjacks appear to have the nucleus to challenge for another title. Fueled by a second-day 67, senior Connor Quigley tied for medalist honors at state (143) last season at NorthStar Country Club in Sunbury. His official listing was second, determined by a scorecard playoff.

Senior Andy Hayhew tied for fourth (75-78-153). Two more seniors, Chase Frederick and Peyton Wheat, also figured in Oakwood’s state scoring. That makes coach Tyler Kilburn’s Lumberjacks the D-II team to beat, at least locally.

• Fenwick senior Miles Jena has placed in the top 10 in the D-II state tourney the previous three seasons, with a best of fourth as a freshman in 2013. He was No. 3 in Greater Catholic League Co-Ed scoring as a junior (37.50).