IN FULL SWING

GREENFIELD — Learning curves aren’t just reserved for student-athletes, or so Greenfield-Central boys golf coach Jeremy Spencer discovered firsthand last spring.

When Spencer was hired, a few weeks before the start of the 2015 season, he admits, everything unfolded at breakneck speed after taking over the program for Russ Wiley, who coached the team for four years.

The former Franklin Community Middle School coach introduced himself to the Cougars in March, and before he knew it, the team’s first match had arrived. 

“Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was walking into, though I knew we had a few solid golfers out there,” Spencer recalled. “I wasn’t necessarily shocked by how things turned out last year, but this year I have more of an idea of how we could do as a team. I think we’ll win a few more and continue to progress.”

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With a full season behind him and his first true offseason set at his own pace, Spencer is optimistic of both the program’s present and the future.

The team returns three golfer with varsity experience in 2016, including senior Clayton Long, a two-time regional qualifier, and sophomores Garrett Bice and John Barber.

Behind the top-three are a trio of talented freshman in Zach Archer, Noah Moehler and Jordan Wray, making Greenfield-Central a predominantly youthful and driven group after losing four-fifths of it’s sectional lineup.

“I think we can possibly, if things work right, do more as a team versus just having one individual break away during sectional time,” Spencer said. “At the same time, it’s a rebuilding year. I look for us to get some of the young guys experience, and hopefully get Clayton deeper into the tournament.”

Long’s veteran leadership has been invaluable as the Cougars look to improve upon last year’s 4-14 finish.

His presence gives the team much needed balance, said Spencer, referring to his upperclassman’s golf IQ and work ethic.

His achievements speak for themselves.

As a freshman, Long cemented himself as a rising star, posting a 78 at Hawk’s Tail during the Greenfield Sectional to secure a runner-up finish for the Cougars and the team’s first regional berth in five years.

Long earned All-Hoosier Heritage Conference honors as a sophomore and a junior and shot an 83 at Arrowhead Golf Course to become All-Hancock County last season.

On his home course last June, he recorded an 80 at sectional as the lowest-scoring individual regional qualifier and first without an advancing team.

“Clayton is not only a good player, but he’s also a really good teammate and great at working with the new guys. He’s doing a tremendous job,” Spencer said. “Clayton made it out to regional last year, so we’re kind of hoping for the same thing this year.”

In preparation for another run at regional — and maybe beyond — Long has put in the time in hopes of elevating his team’s eighth-place sectional score (391) from 2015.

“He works out at the golf course (Hawk’s Tail), so he lives and breathes it,” Spencer said. “He did some simulator time and just got out and played as much as he could in the offseason.”

Since practice officially began March 14, a majority of the team has followed suit despite the school going on spring break seven days later. On the course practicing every day, the team’s chemistry has accelerated along with the maturation of the freshmen joining the mix.

“Those guys are solid and they are guys I look forward to working with the next four years to see where they go because they have a lot of potential,” Spencer said. “The end result for us this season will come from the time and energy the guys dedicate to getting better as we go along.”

At a glance

Team: Greenfield-Central

Head Coach: Jeremy Spencer, second season

2015 results: Third at Hancock County, Eighth at Greenfield-Central Sectional

2016 projected lineup

Clayton Long (12)

Garrett Bice (10)

John Barber (10)

Zach Archer (9)

Noah Moehler (9)

Jordan Wray (9)

Team schedule

April 4: vs. Eastern Hancock, 4:30 p.m.

April 12: vs. Whiteland & New Palestine, 4:30 p.m.

April 16: at Danville, 8:30 a.m.

April 18: at Morristown vs. Anderson, 5 p.m.

April 19: at Warren Central, 4:30 p.m.

April 23: at Mt. Vernon, 10 a.m.

April 25: vs. Mt. Vernon, 4:30 p.m.

April 26: at Rushville, 5 p.m.

May 3: vs. Fishers, 5 p.m.

May 7: at Delaware Invitational, 1:30 p.m.

May 9: vs. Lawrence Central, 4:30 p.m.

May 10: vs. Shelbyville, 5 p.m.

May 14: Hoosier Heritage Conference at Greenfield-Central, 1 p.m.

May 17: at Pendleton Heights, 4:30 p.m.

May 21: at Franklin Central Invitational, 1:30 p.m.

May 24: vs. Franklin Community, 4:30 p.m.

June 1: at Richmond, 4 p.m.

June 2: Hancock County at Greenfield-Central, 4:30 p.m.

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.