Trenton native Brent James is excited to take over the reins of the Highland High School boys golf program.
“We’ve got some seniors who are ready to roll here, and we’ve got some freshmen coming in that look promising and are eager to get out there and learn the game and really step in for us,” James said last Thursday at the team’s second day of practice.
James replaces Caleb Houchins, who has taken over as Highland High School’s athletic director. James played golf at Wesclin before graduating in 2003. He then went on to play at McKendree University, where he graduated from in 2007. Right out of college, he coached and taught at Belleville East before coming to Highland five years ago to teach math.
And James’ tenure as the golf coach and his team’s season was scheduled to begin fast and furious with two tournaments this week. But Tuesday’s Alton Redbird Tee-Off Classic at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course in Alton was rained out ,Then on Thursday, the Bulldogs will vie in the Madison County Tournament at Gateway National Golf Links in Madison.
“They have to be in mid-season form right out of the gate and with not much time to prepare, so we really don’t have any time to waste,” James said. “They both have a lot of teams and they are tough courses, so they are going to have to be ready. I will bring five to Alton but what five is still up in the air.”
A good bet to be in the starting rotation were the trio of seniors, Brode Portell, Will Michael and Ethan Fenton. Portell is the most proven returner after seeing varsity time the past two seasons, including last season when he shot an 83 to advance through the Roxana Regional and qualify for the Waterloo Sectional.
At press time, the rest of the squad was still more of an open battle, with James, assistant coach Brendan Bargetzi and the more experienced players helping give the younger members guidance.
“I had some of the older players yesterday working with the younger guys as they were going around, just showing them the ropes —what is expected and how to do things,” James said. “We always want to compete for the conference. We’ve got a lot of underclassmen and we’re just working on building it and taking it one day at a time at this point.”
Bargetzi is a strength for the program as he serves as the JV coach to lead the younger, more inexperienced players. He is the son of Highland Country Club President Gary Bargetzi and one of the best golfers in HHS history.
“We have a JV schedule and we’ve got Brendan Bargetzi as our JV coach, which is a gem,” James said. “I don’t know of any other squads that have a JV coach with as much knowledge and talent as we have with Brendan. I am going to lead on him a lot to really educate these younger players and get them going. I have a lot of confidence that he is going to do a great job with that.”