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Comets golfers open season today

Imagine being a coach and seeing you have only two official pre-season practice days before contesting a district contest in your season-opener.

That is the position Halifax County High School golf coach David Graham is in this week.

Many coaches would probably panic – but not Graham.

In fact, Graham is embracing the opportunity to have his Comets golf team travel to Old Mill Country Club in Patrick County today to face Patrick County High School, GW and Tunstall High School in the Piedmont District opener.

“To be honest, I like it this way,” Graham said with a smile as he watched his players on the putting green at Green’s Folly Golf Course during Monday’s opening pre-season practice.

“It’s not that bad because most of the varsity team is made up of juniors and seniors, and they have been playing a lot this summer. Sometimes you can practice and their minds are not there. I think getting right into competition will help them have better practices. That’s the reason I waited until today to have the first practice, so they will have something to look forward to.”

Four returning players from last year’s successful Comets golf team, seniors Joey Gasperini, Josh Irby and Alex Tepper and junior Peter Gasperini, appear to be virtual locks to be among the six Comets players that will get the starting nod for today’s Piedmont District opener.

The competition among players looking to occupy the fifth and sixth spots for today’s opener was wide-open Monday afternoon.

Graham pointed out that his Comets golf team appears to be hungry – very hungry in fact.

“Last year we were really close to qualifying for the state tournament as a team,” Graham noted.

“We have four of our six starters from last year (the two Gasperini brothers, Irby and Tepper) back this year and they are really hungry to get to the state tournament this year. They are really chomping at the bit. They knew what they had last year, and let it slip away, and this year they want to see us advance as a team.”

While Graham has the solid core group of experienced returning starters, he also has some players stepping up from last year’s junior varsity program to the varsity level and a talented group of freshman players that saw a lot of success last year playing for the Halifax County Middle School golf team coached by Charlie Payne.

“Charlie Payne has done a great job with the middle school program,” Graham said.

“We’ve got a heck of a crop of freshman players coming from his program last year. In a couple of years, that group will be mighty awesome if they will stick to it and will keep playing together.” 

While the focus of Graham and his Comets golfers is on today’s Piedmont District opener, the Comets will do a quick turnaround and return to action Thursday at 9 a.m. at Green’s Folly Golf Course where they will face Randolph-Henry High School in a scrimmage.

“Randolph-Henry is bringing 12 players, so we will start our top six players against their top six players,” Graham explained.

“We have a crew of between seven and nine freshmen that have come out from last year’s Halifax County Middle School team. I might let that freshman group qualify for the last six spots for Thursday’s match. Right off the bat, we will get some freshmen kids in, and have the varsity kids get their feet wet early and start playing.”

Next week won’t get any easier for the Comets golfers.

On Monday, the Comets will travel to Lynchburg to play in the annual Heritage High School Invitational Golf Tournament. Then, on Wednesday, the Comets will face Tunstall High School, Martinsville High School and Bassett High School at Tuscarora Country Club near Danville.

“Our schedule is packed this season, which is great,” Graham remarked.

“Usually, we had had one match a week, and that makes for long weeks for the kids in terms of practice. Most of these kids have been playing golf all summer. It’s just a matter of getting underneath the pressure. Here you get a chance to have the kids play and play under some pressure and find out what you need to work on. Then, when you come back, practices are more beneficial.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of hard work this year,” added Graham. 

“We’ll see some good competition among ourselves. The players have been working really hard together, and I’m looking forward to the season. Hopefully this will be one of our better years.”