Happy Valley golf team operates with room for optimism

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  It took only one match into the 2004 golf season for Happy Valley High School coach Rik Anderson to see dramatic improvement from a year ago.
   "We were more competitive," said Anderson about his squad's 2004 season-opener, which saw the Warriors place third. "A stroke or two here or there and we could have finished second."
  This year's HV team, which has since won a match, consists of a dozen players, 10 boys and two girls. Two seniors Matt Howell and Justin Davis top the list of returnees.
  Ricky Morgan, Nate Howell, Ryan May and B.J. Townsend all return to represent the junior class. Kayla Vestal is the lone returning sophomore with other sophomores being newcomers Josh Lowe, Dustin Green and Bradley Gouge.
  Two freshmen, Derek Gouge and Sarah Blevins, round out the Warrior golf team roster.
   "The strength is our depth, having a number of players who could shoot a good score," said Anderson. "We're pretty solid from all the players we have. We could take a different six to each event.
  "The qualifying is going to be so close. A tenth of a point might seperate our sixth through tenth."
  A variety of players can step into the lead role for Happy Valley when needed.
  "We've got seven players who could play as number one," said Anderson. "All of their scores average in the low 40s to high 40s. Our number six player, Justin Davis, shot the best score in the first match."
  Morgan is mentioned as the top player at driving the ball off the tee, although Anderson is quick to point out that most of the young players have little problem using their woods.
  "They all hit it pretty good," said Anderson. "They work at it. Most of the kids from last year have shown a lot of improvement. Last year, it was a bonus if a player shot in the 40s. All the players now we expect to be in the 40s."
  The standards in 2004 for the team as a whole have been raised as well.
  "Last year we were just happy not to finish last," admitted Anderson. "This year we want to be competitive when we go to a match and be around the team that wins it.
  "In our league Sullivan Central and Elizabethton are really good, but we feel we can compete with the rest of them."
  The players are typically putting in four to five days a week at the golf course. Anderson says if his players continue working on the greens they have an opportunity to excell.
  For Anderson in his second year as golf coach, he finds little to compare with other sports he has coached.
  "It's different, you don't have much control like you do in a sport like basketball," said Anderson. "There's not a whole lot of coaching like I'm going to try to change swings, but we will enlist the help of Steve Howard (the pro at Elizabethton Golf Course) if a player needs help.
  "I try to help them more on the greens. We practice by putting in certain situations, but you know how golf is. The best thing you can do is just get out there and play."
  However, there is one concept from other sports Anderson tries to bring to the squad.
  "You can only take six players to a match," explained Anderson. "But one thing I try to emphasize is that all players are important. The ones who play on a practice squad, not scored at the match are just as important to the team as the number one player."