In accordance with the start of another prep golf season, the Times caught up recently with Riverview senior and two-time district champion Ian McConnell for a little Q&A. (We had to do it by phone; McConnell bypassed the first day of school Tuesday to compete in the U.S. Amateur in Tulsa, Okla.)
You qualified for the U.S. Amateur essentially by making a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole of your sectional qualifier (at Avila). At the time, did you realize the putt was for a spot in the field?
"I didn't know it at the time, but once I got in I looked at the scoreboard and noticed I was the last one in. … Me and (caddie Tyler Young) both were kind of walking up to the green and were like, 'This would be a nice one to make.' "
Did you know the putt was going in when you hit it?
"I knew it was on the line I wanted; it was just a matter if it was hard enough."
What's the best round of golf you ever played?
"It was about a month ago now. I can't remember the exact date on it, around the 20th of July. I shot 63 at Summerfield. I made 10 birdies. It's the most birdies I've ever had in a round; six birdies on the back nine. It was just one of those days where the putter just got absolutely hot."
We've talked about your various superstitions before. Refresh us:
"I have plenty of superstitions. … I use a certain ball marker most of the time. A '98 JFK 50-cent piece and '95 quarter. I always have five tees in my pocket when I'm playing. And sometimes, just to mess with people's minds, I wear two different kinds of socks. … I might do it in all the high school matches this year."
What's your outlook for the team this season?
"Ah, man, I would almost say the sky's the limit. … I think it's definitely a year we can make it to states. We have five seniors all capable of breaking 80s on good days. This is as excited as I've been for a high school season."
Teams to watch
Plant: Top four players are seniors, three of whom led Panthers to a district crown in 2008.
Gaither: Four of the top five players on last season's region-qualifying team were underclassmen.
Berkeley Prep: Reigning Class A, District 14 champs return solid nucleus led by junior Blake Morris.
King: Last year's 2A-11 champs move to a tougher district, but the lineup may be deeper.
Chamberlain: Standout junior Gary Buffington leads a veteran team that finished second in its district in 2008.
Five players to watch
• Gary Buffington, Jr., Chamberlain: Placed second at 2A-10 tourney as sophomore
• Ian McConnell, Sr., Riverview: Two-time district champ has committed to Liberty University
• Charles Silverfield, Sr., Plant: Panthers' No. 1 player placed fifth at districts in 2008
• Blake Morris, Jr., Berkeley Prep: 2008 district runnerup ranked among nation's top 100 junior players
• Cody Tibbets, Sr., Alonso: Finished sixth at last year's 2A, Region 4 meet — on a daunting private course.