Blythewood golf already gearing up for 2021

After his girls golf team closed out a 5A state championship last fall, Blythewood head golf coach Jason Minkel had high hopes that the boys would at least make a decent run for the state title in the spring.

“Last year we definitely underperformed,” Minkel said about his boys’ team. “We were looking for a whole lot more than what we ended up with. So coming into the year we were very excited and had a lot of potential, we thought of ourselves as a top-five team in the state.”

That was, until the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic reached South Carolina, along with every other place in the United States.

The young Bengals managed to get in just one week of the season. They beat Camden by 15 strokes in a match at Blythewood’s home course, the Columbia Country Club March 10. The next day, Blythewood finished seventh in the Battle of the Dam, hosted by River Bluff at the Golden Hills Golf &Country Club.

By that time everyone was aware that, as the threat of the pandemic came into South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster would order all schools closed. He did so March 15, and they stayed closed for the rest of the school year.

“We were all disappointed to have the season end the way it did,” Minkel said, “but we’ve only got three seniors on a team of 16 kids and we’ll have the opportunity to come back next year.”

Seniors Kelvin Singleton, Daniel Larimore, and Colby Cantey will move on to college, but will be missed. Singleton was in his second year with the varsity, and Cantey and Larimore often started. 

“Kelvin always put a ton of effort in his game and was trying to do his best while at the same time enjoying all of his teammates,” Minkel said. “Daniel had a lot of big hopes coming into this season. He hasn’t decided on what he’s doing next year, whether he wants to go into the golf course business. He may not play, and he was disheartened by the lack of opportunity to play this year, but he’s got a lot going for him.

“Colby Canty is one of the most naturally gifted players,” Minkel added. “He was always out on the course. He was always out in the ether. He wanted to the best at everything, and always had a good time on the course no matter how doing in the match.” 

Minkel said that the seniors and the rest of the team has had plenty of chances to hit the course in light of the non-season. Since the school closures, some golf courses that were able to comply with restrictions set by the state government could reopen by April. Columbia Country Club was one such course, and ever since then, the Bengals have been working on their games individually.

“Almost all of our kids have been out playing,” Minkel said. “They’re still looking forward to next season and they’re putting in the work for next year. We’re a younger group and we’re going to be a very strong team even though we lose three seniors.”

Knowing that they will return next year, the young Bengals are intent on cleaning up their games by the teme the 2021 season tees off.

“They took it OK. It’s really nothing that could be done,” Minkel said of the cancelled season. “We were obviously disappointed that they couldn’t get out and play, but we’re extremely hopeful for next year and we’re trying not to let this roadblock determine our future.”

Barbara BallBarbara

Photos by Gregg Martin Photographic Design