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Youthful Connellsville golf team builds toward future

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:31 p.m.
Jason Black | Trib Total Media
Connellsville senior Brock Firestone works on his putting during a practice session Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 at Pleasant Valley Country Club.

The Connellsville boys golf team is entering a transition period, and coach Brent Rockwell knows the Falcons will be using much of the upcoming season to fine-tune and prepare for the future.

“They are young, which is what I like because they can be developed, and hopefully next year, we'll be a lot better,” Rockwell said.

The Falcons have a nice roster in terms of size.

There are 17 golfers on this year's team. However, the vast majority has limited varsity experience.

Gone are graduates Tyler McFadden, Jonathan Grinko, Ryan Burkholder, Colt Miller and Tanner Kirsch.

All were regular starters for the past four seasons.

“It's a big blow because I had those guys since they were freshmen,” Rockwell said.

But despite those losses, Rockwell sees promise on this year's team, starting with juniors Zachary Beneke and Jimmy Malone. Both provide some consistent play, which will be valuable for a young team.

“They keep the ball in play and they have to be leaders in order for us to be decent,” Rockwell said.

Junior Gavin Swink is another player Rockwell will look to throughout the season.

“I'm looking for Gavin to step up because he has been with me two years in a row,” Rockwell said.

Swink is excited about this year's team and hopes the improvement throughout the season manifests itself in coming seasons.

“I think we can probably win a couple of matches, but we're still pretty young,” Swink said. “Hopefully we'll get a lot of play in and we'll get a lot better, so next year, we'll have a pretty solid team.”

Beneke, Malone and Swink have a solid chance of being regular starters, but Rockwell said with so many young players entering into the mix this year, it's difficult to determine who will lead the team in scoring from match to match.

“This year, it's wide open,” Rockwell said. “It can be anybody on any given day.”

As for goals, Rockwell has set realistic milestones for a team comprised of 15 underclassmen.

“We're looking for improvement throughout the year,” Rockwell said.

“We're looking to make better contact, two-putt and basically play smart golf.”

Rockwell, entering his seventh season as the team's coach, is looking forward to the challenge of molding a young team.

“I've definitely got to coach this year,” he said. “It will be about showing them the game of golf and how it is supposed to be played.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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