Lenoir City golf off to strong start

Lenoir City High School senior Jeremy Ellis hits a drive July 27 in the 5 Star Preps Masters at Oak Ridge Country Club. Ellis placed second in the tournament.

The Lenoir City High School golf team has officially teed off the season and is off to a promising start following a solid outing July 27-28 at the 5 Star Preps Masters.

Senior Jeremy Ellis led the charge with a second-place finish after shooting one under par 71 against some of the top golfers in East Tennessee.

He scored seven birdies on nine holes on the first day and came up short in a playoff hole on the second day to determine the tournament championship.

“It was a great way to start out the season,” Ellis said. “I wasn’t hitting the ball great, but I knew exactly where the ball was going. I was playing a draw, and I wasn’t hitting the greatest shots the entire tournament, but they were predictable shots. I was missing in the right spots, and it allowed me to still shoot solid numbers on both days. I was putting really well, so that really helped.”

The boys team followed up July 29 with an impressive 169-191 win over Hardin Valley Academy and Midway High School.

Ellis and seniors Hank Moneymaker and Jonathan Shamblin could prove a dangerous trio this season.

Sophomore Dalton Varner and freshmen Alex Barton and Joshua Hoekstra are competing for playing time.

“(Ellis) played really well, and as far as our team, our team came out a little slow,” Adrian Pearce, LCHS head golf coach, said. “I’ve got three back from last year, so they’re my top three players. I have three new players, and they’re kind of vying to kind of see who’s going to be in that fourth and fifth spot as far as the boys.”

On the girls side, Lenoir City will have four golfers competing. The Lady Panthers defeated Midway 107-117 in their first match.

Sophomore Amanda Matzek returns as the Lady Panthers’ No. 1. Sophomores Kirsten Littleton and Emma Cubberley will vie for the second and third spots, along with transfer freshman Merina Cooke.

“Amanda Matzek, she’s really improved over the summer and is playing 10 or 15 shots better than she did last year so she’s definitely my No. 1 girl,” Pearce said. “Kirsten Littleton is my second-best player, and she’s improved. I just picked up a new player that’s transferring in from Holston Middle School, and she’s going to be starting.”

Pearce encouraged the team to continue practicing during the pandemic.

“The two courses that I’m a member are at have still been open through this time, so I’ve actually been able to practice more because there’s nothing else to do besides go play golf every day,” Ellis said. “It’s allowed me to get more practice time in, and my game’s been pretty good lately.”

The boys are projected to finish near the top of the district standings, but the level of competition will be much tougher.

“I think they can go a long ways, but as far as the team, we’ve got to find somebody to play in that four and five spot because I’m three deep right now,” Pearce said. “As far as that fourth spot, it’s kind of up in the air right now. I really need that fourth spot to be consistent because we’ll be counting that score.

“I think this team has more potential in the long run if we can just get better,” he added. “Our goals are always to place in the top three in district and then advance to region as a team. It’s going to be tough because almost everybody in our district has gotten better. Bearden’s improved, West has improved, we don’t have Catholic in our district anymore, which that helps. Farragut’s always going to be good, so I think our competition has gotten better.”

Ellis advanced to the state tournament as a sophomore and is hopeful to return a final time.

“I would like to have my high school average under par this year throughout the rest of the season in matches, state, district, regionals if I can make it that far,” Ellis said. “I know I’m going to have some bad rounds, but I think I can keep the average below par. As a team, I would also like to try and make it to regionals.”

Lenoir City’s next match is 4:30 p.m. Thursday at The Club at Gettysvue against Knox Catholic High School.