Black Bears win match on their home course


Chris Jones

Harlan County eighth-grader Brayden Casolari was the winner on Thursday in a Pine Mountain Golf Conference match at the Harlan Country Club. Casolari shot an even-par 34.

Playing on its home course at the Harlan Country Club for the first time in several years, the Harlan County Black Bears coasted to a Pine Mountain Golf Conference victory with a 14-stroke win over both Knox Central and Middlesboro. The Bears finished with a 158, while Knox Central and Middlesboro each shot 172.
“My guys are starting to learn how to finish events,” Harlan County coach Greg Lewis said. “We played well today and finished strong but we did struggle with our putting. We had two three putts of less than three feet and a couple four putts. As well as they are hitting the ball, if we can get a few of these mental mistakes cleared up we will really put up some impressive numbers.”
Lewis said playing at home was a good feeling for his golfers.
“Harlan Country Club is a great course and the staff have it looking better than I’ve ever seen it. It’s a shotmakers’ course. You have to be accurate and know where to hit the ball to be successful here. We were able to do that today, with four of my guys being in the top seven,” Lewis said. “We are peaking at the right time with the conference championship next week at Wasioto. If we can take care of a few of these mental errors, I like our chances.”
Brayden Casolari, an eighth-grader, was the individual champion with an even-par 34.
“Brayden played extremely well tonight. He won by two but the match wasn’t that close,” Lewis said. “He gave a few shots away on his last two holes or he would have had a really dominant win. He’s a definite threat to win the conference tournament next week.”
Middlesboro’s Tyler Harris was second with a 36, three strokes ahead of Knox Central’s Grant Miller. Harlan County’s Cole Cornett was fourth with a 40.
“Cole hit the ball as good as anyone in the field but had a tough day on the greens,” Lewis said. “If he had brought a hot putter with him, he would have pushed Brayden for the win.”
Matt Lewis and Alex Creech tied for seventh as each shot a 42.
“I’m very proud of Matt’s effort. He’s still hurting pretty bad in his lower back. He’s gutting it out and put up a really good 42. We are going to get him some rest and rehab on his back to have him ready for next week,” Lewis said. “Alex played great tonight. He had a couple bad shots into tough places to recover from but saved bogeys. Like Cole, if he had a hot putter with him he would have had a top three or four finish.”
Ethan Simpson and Evan Simpson shot a 58 and 57, respectively.
“Ethan and Evan played great. Both of them I’m sure are running on fumes after two varsity matches and a JV tournament this week. Every time out they are improving and more importantly, learning. Give them some time and they both will be putting up some good numbers,” Lewis said. “What I love most about these kids is their commitment to the team over the individual. Every kid came in and the first thing they want to know is where we stand as a team. Not one kid asked where they were individually. For them to have learned to play for each other over yourself at such a young age is a testament to the type of kids I have. As I’ve said before, I love my team and I’m really excited about the future of this program.”
Harlan’s Aiden Johnson tied for eighth with a score of 45.
“Aiden is right where he needs to be to get ready for the regional tournament,” Harlan coach Jeremy Lee said. “Any mistakes he is making are easily fixable. He is very accurate with his long irons and is averaging less than two putts per hole. I’m confident by the region, Aiden will be playing his best golf.”
Kevin Thomas Lee finished with a 54.
“Being on his home course allowed him to be comfortable and make several good shots,” Lee said. “Kevin Thomas struggled on two holes with balls going out of bounds, which added unneeded strokes. I’m proud of both of these young men and the hard work they’ve put into this year.”