LC golf poised for breakout year

Lenoir City High School’s Jeremy Ellis tees off Thursday in a tri-match against Christian Academy of Knoxville and William Blount High School at Tennessee National.

The Lenoir City High School boys golf team saw mixed results Thursday in a tri-match against Christian Academy of Knoxville and William Blount High School at Tennessee National.

The Panthers fell to the CAK Warriors by 24 strokes, but defeated the district rival Governors 172-186.

“We’ve already played William Blount twice and beat them both times,” Adrian Pearce, LCHS head golf coach, said. “CAK is one of the best teams in Knoxville. ... Really, they don’t have any competition in town, so they’re probably going to go onto win state. Them and Farragut are the two best teams in the state.”

LCHS junior Jeremy Ellis led the Panthers with a 37, followed by Hank Moneymaker, who shot a 42.

“My boys are playing pretty consistent, especially my one, two, three and four,” Pearce said. “I’m really looking for a No. 5, but I’m really senior and junior strong. I’ve got a lot of seniors and juniors. ... We’re pretty consistent, and we’ve been averaging 162, 165. Today we shot a 172 and that’s just because Andrew (Conner) had a bad day today. I don’t think he hit one fairway and, usually, he plays a bit better.”

Even though he shot an impressive 37, Ellis believes he could’ve performed better.

“I had new wedges that I wasn’t really used to, so that caused me to struggle a little bit on a couple of holes,” he said. “I was able to bounce back on one and two and make some good birdies to get me back one over.”

Ellis is coming off a strong sophomore season after competing in the state tournament — the first LCHS golfer to do so since Ella Morton in 2016.

He is off to a fast start this year following a dominating performance in the 5 Star Preps Masters in July.

“We’ve really started on a good note because we haven’t lost to anybody in our district,” Ellis said. “5 Star was a great tournament. The first day, I was playing really solid, just kept making pars. I started with a bogey on the first hole, but I was able to make up for it, make a couple of birdies. I was able to fight back and get a couple more.”

Pearce believes the Panthers have a great chance to finish in the top three in the district, especially with his top three players in Conner, Ellis and Moneymaker.

“I’m pretty sure that we’ll qualify for region, it’s just if it’s second or third,” he said. “As far as our district, Farragut’s the team to beat, and everybody else is fighting for second or third. With that threesome right there, they have a chance to shoot under par every time. Jeremy qualified for state last year, and he’s gotten taller and stronger. He’s hitting the ball so much further, so he’s kind of learning his body now. He’s getting what he deserves because he works so hard.

“Andrew has a lot of talent, he’s just trying to corral it,” he added. “Hank’s a hard worker, too. We played here on Tuesday (Aug. 6) and he shot a 36, so it’s in him. One day, he’s driving the ball great, but he’s not chipping and putting great. When he ties it all together, he’ll be just as good as Jeremy.”

On the girls side, the Lady Panthers dropped the match by a score of 84-90-128.

Pearce knows there will be some growing pains this season with an entire freshman roster, but is hopeful for a bright future.

“If I can break 100 with them, that would be great,” Pearce said. “They’re learning every time we come out here, and they shave a couple of strokes off. It’s just getting out here and them getting to play golf. They really didn’t play this summer, but otherwise, they’ve got really good hand-eye coordination. I think they’re going to be really good if they stick with it.”