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2014 Boys Golf Preview: New Palestine

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Coach: Gregg Greene, 20th season.

Home Course: The Links, New Palestine.

2013: Dragons finished third at Hancock County Meet (175), eighth at Hoosier Heritage Conference Championship (371), fifth at Greenfield-Central Sectional (361).

Key Losses: Jacob Smith, who posted the team’s third-best sectional score a year ago as a junior, is not playing this season.

Roster: Seniors Aric Kotarski, Sam O’Dell; juniors Brady Elliott, Brody Harper, Jason Hooper, Matt Kreutzer, Grayden Martin; sophomores Peyton Chester, Coltin Espich, Ryan Fry, Evan Rejer; freshmen Blake Barnette, Nick Lyon, Lucas Swanson.

Outlook: The Dragons are in the same rosy position as county, conference and sectional rival Greenfield-Central: They return nearly the entire lineup. Among the NP veterans are junior Brady Elliott, who took second place at the 2013 sectional with a 77 – just one stroke shy of winner Blake Wheeler of New Castle – and senior Aric Kotarski, who finished All-County with a 41, good for fourth overall at the Hancock County Meet. … The Dragons fell nine strokes short of a county title and 18 strokes out of a regional qualification last season. Coach Gregg Greene believes those deficits will shrink. “I expect (improvement) this year,” he commented. “And we’re going to press the issue. We’ve got to be better by the end of the season. I’m really pleased with guys that I have. I would love to see that older bunch that’s been in the sectional a few times to step up and make some noise.” … New Palestine opens the season Saturday in the Yorktown Invitational. Elliott, Kotarski and juniors Grayden Martin and Matt Kreutzer will likely be among NP’s starting five Saturday, Greene said. Martin shared Hoosier Heritage Conference team honors with Kotarski last season; each took a 91. Kreutzer was also a varsity starter a year ago. … Senior Sam O’Dell and juniors Jason Hooper, Brody Harter are among the Dragons contending for the No. 5 varsity position. … The Dragons have 14 players on their roster, tops among county squads. “As a group, everyone seems to be gelling pretty well,” Greene said. “Practice has been good. I’m happy with where we are at this point.”

First tee: The Dragons will compete in the Yorktown Invitational on Saturday to open 2014. They’ll host Greenfield-Central and Whiteland on Tuesday.

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