Middlesboro, HCHS take top two spots in conference meet


Chris Jones

Harlan’s AIden Johnson and Middlesboro’s NIck Cox studied the course during a Pine Mountain Golf Conference match earlier this season.

Middlesboro captured the championship of the Pine Mountain Golf Conference Tournament on Sunday at the Wasioto Winds course with a 349. Harlan County was second with a 366, one stroke ahead of Knox Central. Bell County was fourth with a 446.
“I have very mixed emotions right now. I’m disappointed we got so close but didn’t finish the win. At the same time, I’m very happy with our season. To have such a young team and be conference runner up, I’m impressed with them,” Harlan County coach Greg Lewis said. “Tonight, our inexperience showed more than any time this season. We missed some very makable putts, we tried to hole out chip shots instead of settling for easy pars, We went for difficult shots instead of playing for par — mental mistakes you can’t make when you are competing against an experienced defending champion.”
Tyler Harris, of Middlesboro, was the individual champion with a 76. Knox Centrals Alex Smith and Bryce Imel placed second and third, respectively. Brayden Casolari led Harlan County as he finished fifth. Harlan’s Aiden Johnson was tied for sixth.
“ Aiden played very well and is playing his best golf going into the regional tournament,” said Harlan coach Jeremy Lee. “Aiden’s consistent strong play earned him first-team all-conference honors.
Harlan County’s Matt Lewis, Alex Creech and Cole Cornett rounded out the top 10.
“We had times where we looked great,” Lewis said. “Matt has been driving the ball as well as I’ve ever seen him hit it. Brayden had stretches where he wasn’t missing a putt. Alex has been hitting the ball very well. Cole struck the ball well, as a team, we just didn’t score when we had the opportunities.”
“I also have to give credit to Middlesboro. They came out today and played very well in very difficult conditions. Coach (Alan) Wilford is a good coach and he had his boys ready and they executed their game plan perfectly.”
In the junior varsity competition, Harlan’s Kevin Thomas Lee and Harlan County’s Ethan Simpson each shot a 108 and Harlan County’s Evan Simpson finished with a 113.
“Kevin Thomas has continued to improve his game this year. Next year, I expect him to be a competitive varsity golfer,” said the Harlan coach.
“Ethan and Evan did play well tonight,” Lewis said. “With a bit more experience and practice they are going to be integral parts of this team moving forward.”
The all-conference team, listed below, included several local competitors.
“We we’re well represented on the all-conference teams as Matt and Brayden were first team all-conference. Cole and Alex were both second team. Brayden was second in player of the year, missing out by one spot,” Lewis said. “We had six regular season matches with two wins and four second place finishes, missing out on two more wins by a combined three shots, and a runner up finish in the conference championship. I could not be prouder of these kids. The definitely achieved more than anyone could have expected from them, After region, we will discuss an off-season practice plan and I definitely believe we will make that step to the next level next year. The future for golf in Harlan County is very bright.”
The regional meet is set for Sept. 28 at the Eagles Nest Country Club in Somerset.

Pine Mountain Golf All-Conference Team:

Player of the Year: Tyler Harris-Mboro

1st Team All Conference:
Matt Lewis-HC
Brayden Casolari-HC
Aiden Johnson-Harlan
Nick Cox-Mboro
Alex Smith-KC
Bryce Imel-KC

2nd Team All Conference:
Alex Creech-HC
Cole Cornett-HC
Garrison Warren-Mboro
Warren Vaught-Mboro
Grant Miller-KC