By Stephen Smoot
Although only in its sixth year of play, Pendleton County High School’s golf squad stands ready to add to a developing tradition. The co-ed team features five competitors from the high school as well as one middle schooler.
Coach Charlie Burgoyne’s team brings a mix of experienced players and enthusiastic newcomers, headed up by junior Cameron Beachler. As Burgoyne explains, Beachler is “my number one golfer.” In his third year, “he played a little bit before he came over from football. He hurt his leg and took up golf.”
Making the team a family affair is another third-year competitor, Brayden Beachler, cousin to Cameron.
Burgoyne has high hopes and praise for senior Haiden Waggy, a player with significant noncompetitive experience. As Burgoyne explains, “he’ll be good. He really likes it.” Waggy’s enthusiasm helped the team recruit first year player Evan Teter.
A first-year player who stands to make an impact is freshman Brian DiFalco. Burgoyne commented that DiFalco “is really hooked on it,” with a father and grandfather who both play avidly.
Dylan Eye, the team’s only middle school player, “is all in for it.” Burgoyne explained “He’s small, about 84 pounds, so it’s a great sport for him.”
Eye also has “improved a lot in a few months. He practices a lot.”
Burgoyne’s hopes for the future of the program rest a great deal on bringing in young players with a passion for the game, Currently, “we get a lot of brand new players.” Bringing older first-year players up to speed “is quite a challenge.” Recruiting players like Eye, will help to strengthen the program in the future.
One of the key differences between golf and most other sports lies in the differences between venues. The Wildcats call the Highlands Golf Club at Fisher Mountain home. Differences between courses can help to build a home advantage. “This course is a mountain course,” Burgoyne says, “It’s hilly, no level lies. It’s good for the kids because it’s a great challenge.”
The Highlands, called by Burgoyne “a hidden gem,” was designed by West Virginia native Bill Ward. Ward designed seven different courses in three states.
Other courses on Pendleton County’s schedule reflect the influence of golfing legends. When the Wildcats traveled to play against Lewis County, they competed at the Stonewall Resort course designed by Arnold Palmer, winner of 64 Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour events and one of the best to ever compete in the game. Also on the schedule is The Raven at Snowshoe Resort, designed by Gary Player who has 24 PGA victories to his credit.
Pendleton County’s golfers, as Burgoyne explains, “love exploring new courses . . . they compete against the course, as well as each other.”
Even though a young program, Burgoyne has started to lay a foundation of excellence. A former Wildcat golfer, Leah Loudermilk, now competes with the University of Charleston. Although she only started playing in her junior year of high school, she now holds her own as a college redshirt junior alongside talent that came to UC from around the world.
Burgoyne sees golf as not only a way to represent the school and earn victories, but also as a way to build character in young men and women. He takes pride in his players developing friendships with those from other schools
Golf also gives kids a chance to compete in a sport, even if “the players are not a typical football or volleyball type of athlete.” Unlike games requiring greater physicality, many can enjoy golf for decades after most stop playing football or similar sports.
Last week, the Wildcats competed in two matches.
On Aug. 30, 32 golfers from four schools met at The Highlands Golf Course. The team results were Moorefield 174, East Hardy 191, Pocahontas County 204, Pendleton County 205, and AAA Hampshire 225.
The low medalist was J. J Carr, who earned all-state honors last year at Moorefield and scored a 38.
Pendleton County’s low scorer was Cameron Beachler with 47. Waggy came in next at 51, Brayden Beachler 52, DiFalco 55, Teter 57, and middle schooler Eye scored 56.
Two days later, Pendleton County competed on the Arnold Palmer course at Stonewall against AAA and AA talent. AA Roane County finished first with 194, then AAA Preston County 198, Lewis County 201, and Pendleton County 230. Robert C. Byrd only had two of the six competitors needed to finish in the team rankings.
Pendleton County was scheduled to host Lewis County, Petersburg, Tygart Valley, and Moorefield on Tuesday and then travel today to Canaan Valley.