Enterprise High School’s golf program has won the Red State Runner Up Trophy in each of the past two seasons and this year they won’t settle for less than the Blue State Champion Trophy.
In 2019, the Lady Cats took second place in the state and were favored to win it all in 2020 before the season was wiped out due to COVID-19. Then, in 2021, the Wildcats won second place — losing by just two strokes in the state championship — and eighth-grader Jon Ed Steed won second place in the state individually.
“We want the blue trophy this year,” EHS boys’ coach Rex Bynum said emphatically. “We want to win the national tournament and I think we are the favourites.
“I know you’re putting pressure on yourself when you say that, but I think we have a great opportunity to achieve that goal. We have the talent; it’s just about getting there.
Helping the Wildcats get there is the fact that four of the team’s top five golfers return from last season’s finalists. Although the university team is not numerous, the talent is not lacking.
“We only have six varsity players, but I have four of my top five returning from last season,” Bynum said. “We have a very good group, we’re just not very numerous.”
The top four in the rotation will be senior Gibby Charlton, rookie Jon Ed Steed, junior Nick Cook and junior Jackson Bailey, while fifth place is up for grabs between senior AJ Castleberry and junior Hunter McCarty. The winner of this competition will take fifth place in the rotation, while the other will play individually.
The Lady Cats also return in a smaller group than in previous years, but like the Wildcats, there is no shortage of talent as seniors Isabella Holtz, Meridith Black and Hailey Rotenberry return to lead the way. Leading them this year, however, is new head coach Doug Branson.
Branson comes to Enterprise after serving as head basketball coach and head golf coach at Charles Henderson. He coached golf for eight years and also coached basketball for three years with Charles Henderson. Before coming to Troy, Branson coached basketball at Pike County High School, Pearl River Community College and Columbus State University. Branson is also currently the JV boys’ basketball coach and varsity assistant coach at Enterprise. The Virginia native also played college basketball at Wallace Community College before injuries pushed him into coaching.
“It’s going to be fun,” Branson said of resuming the women’s golf program. “It’s a little different for me coming from Troy where I was the boys’ coach and now I’m moving on to the girls, but I’m excited.
“You can tell the young girls are really excited to start.”
Branson said he was going to lean on his seniors in his freshman year.
“When you step into a (new) situation, you always expect your elders to lead the way and kind of set the tone for the younger girls,” Branson said. “We have three senior girls and then it goes down to middle-aged junior girls at college level. I hope our seniors have been here long enough that they can set the standard for our other young ladies to get us where we want to be.
Other college players are No. 8 Maci McCarty and No. 7 Shaelyn Kennedy, but don’t let age fool you when it comes to Kennedy. Kennedy, the daughter of former Enterprise football coach Jed Kennedy, is considered one of the best young golfers in the entire country. She has racked up an impressive number of tournament wins in the Southeast, including against much older athletes.
Branson said he hopes this mix of veterans and talented youngsters can help this group build on the foundations that have been laid in previous years.
“I know they’ve had some success here as a program and we just want to build on that,” Branson said. “With these seniors who are here and have been a part of it, I hope they can move us forward in this direction and continue to lay the foundation for a strong program.”