Black Bears earn team win in Pine Mountain Golf Conference meet


Harlan County won a team title on Tuesday in a Pine Mountain Golf Conference meet at the Wasioto Winds course in Pineville. Team members include, from left: assistant coach Brett Widner, Matt Lewis, Brayden Casolari, Alex Creech, Cole Cornett, Ethan Simpson, Evan Simpson and coach Greg Lewis.

Harlan County has experienced plenty of individual success in golf over the course of the past three seasons. That success translated into a team win Tuesday in a Pine Mountain Golf Conference match in Pineville.
“We have been hitting the ball so well lately I knew it was a matter of time before we broke through with a win. We still left a lot of shots on the course tonight, but we battled through the most difficult conditions we’ve faced all year to get the hard-earned victory,” Harlan County coach Greg Lewis said. “We moved the tees back from the three tees to the two tees, adding a lot of distance and played the ball down to replicate regional tournament conditions.”
The Black Bears finished with a 185, three strokes ahead of Knox Central. Middlesboro shot a 197 and Bell County finished with a 215.
Knox Central’s Alex Smith was the individual winner with a 39, one stroke ahead of Harlan County eighth-grader Brayden Casolari.
“Brayden played very well but didn’t get the win due to a rules situation that was the worst break I’ve seen all year,” Lewis said. “He hit a great shot on the seventh hole, which clearly covered the water, but when we went to find the ball it was gone. He had to take a lost ball, which cost him two shots.”
Bryce Imel, of Knox Central, was third with a 43, two strokes ahead of Harlan County seventh-grader Cole Cornett. Matt Lewis was seventh with a 46.
“Cole battled through a couple tough holes to earn a good sixth-place finish. He missed a couple shots in some tough spots but really battled well. He has a tenacity and fight in him that you normally don’t see in a seventh-grader. There’s a lot of good results coming for him in the near future,” Lewis said. “Matt really impressed me with his toughness tonight. Recently, he slipped on a slick step going to school and bruised his lower back. He’s had a tough time swinging the club the last week. I actually didn’t think he was going to be able to play tonight. He toughed it out and earned a very difficult top 10 finish.”
Alex Creech was next for HCHS with a 54, followed by Ethan Simpson with a 61 and Evan Simpson with a 63.
“Alex finished just outside the top 10. He hit the ball well but had one of those days that when he missed a shot he missed in the most difficult positions on the hole. He hit the ball much better than his score reflected,” Lewis said. “Again, Ethan and Evan are just getting better every time they play. I see some of the things they do and I have to remind myself they’ve only been playing competitive golf for a few months. They are going to put up some really good numbers for many years to come.”
Harlan County will return to action Thursday with a conference meet at the Harlan Country Club.