By BRETT MARSHALL
When the Garden City High School boys golf team tees off at 9 a.m. Saturday at Buffalo Dunes in its season-opening GCHS Invitational, there will be plenty of 'new' to the Buffs team and program.
First, the Buffs have a new coach in Walker Frey, a former GCHS standout who graduated in 2005 and is now an assistant professional at the Dunes. Frey replaces Lloyd Tiffany, who retired after the 2012 season.
Second, the Buffs' six-man varsity roster for the tournament will have five new names, with only junior Austin Swender returning from the 2012 team.
"A lot of the guys don't have much tournament experience, so we've tried to make every nine-hole practice session count just like a tournament," Frey said earlier this week. "Every round, every shot counts and we've tried to get them into that mode."
Swender, who had an up-and-down sophomore season, has been providing leadership to the new players on the team, Frey said. Swender, who averaged 81.2 a year ago, was an honorable mention all-WAC performer.
"He's been really good to help others get tournament ready, and we've been working with him, too," Frey said. "We're looking for him to have more consistency than a year ago, not to have the highs (scores) that went with some low scores."
Swender had the team's lowest round in recent years in 2012 when he shot a school record 6-under-par 66 at Liberal Country Club. But, he also had several rounds in the mid 80s. Frey wants to eliminate the 80s. Swender also tied for 16th at the Class 6A state tournament last May, also played at Buffalo Dunes.
"We'd like to see him get to where a bad round is in the upper 70s," Frey said. "And I believe he can do that. The potential there is big. He's been working hard every day and on weekends."
Only one senior will be on the tee for the Buffs on Saturday, that being Mitch Moore. Junior Tucker Schiffelbein, who had limited varsity experience a year ago, is back along with newcomer sophomores Tristian Corrales and Lucas Goss, and freshman Parker Tanner.
Corrales, Tanner and Gross qualified for Saturday's event by finishing as the low three scores for the junior varsity team at last week's Great Bend Invitational. Tanner shot a 43, Corrales a 44 and Gross a 47 in the nine-hole event at Stoneridge Golf Club.
Frey said he had 16 players on this year's team and that the varsity spots, especially the bottom three, could change throughout the season.
"All the kids that are coming up, we've got some good younger kids," Frey said. "By the time they are juniors and seniors, they will be able to compete for varsity spots."
Frey said he has been enjoying his first venture into coaching.
"It's been a blast," he said. "It's great to to help the kids improve every day and I've had a lot of help from a lot of different people."
Frey is being assisted this year by Matt Bayer, who works mostly with the junior varsity golfers.
Teams who will be competing on Saturday include the remaining four Western Athletic Conference schools - Dodge City, Liberal, Great Bend and Hays - along with Hutchinson, Salina South, Guymon, Okla., Maize, Goddard and Derby. Dodge City is the defending WAC champion.