By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
As far as boys golf is concerned in the Northeastern Athletic Conference, there’s no question who the team to beat is — the Pymatuning Valley Lakers.
In fact, to the outside observer, it may be perceived that there aren’t even any other teams in the conference besides PV.
Why? Because the Lakers haven’t taken the NAC crown an astounding six-consecutive years.
For some context on how long that really has been, Geneva’s girls golf program (which has reached districts the last two years) didn’t even exist.
President George W. Bush was still in office. Even the Cleveland Browns had winning record in 2007, when the streak began.
For his efforts in leading the Lakers to their sixth-consecutive NAC title, PV coach Jeff Compan is the 2012 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Coach of the Year.
“It’s always an honor,” Compan said. “There’s some really good golf coaches and teams in this county and it’s always rewarding to be recognized. It legitimizes all the hard work you put in.”
As far as the difficulty of repeating as conference champions, Compan said he and his team don’t ever think winning the league is automatic.
“We don’t take them for granted because the league has some good teams,” he said. “Our league was pretty tough this year. Badger was undefeated until we beat them late in the season. It comes and goes in streaks. A few years ago we could’ve been pretty competitive in other leagues outside of ours.
“It just comes and goes the same way it does in all sports.”
It hasn’t been going away from PV in recent years, though.
When Compan took over the Lakers program, PV had some strong seasons, but wasn’t near the perennial power it is now.
Compan said the key to his success has been working with groups of players who work hard.
“I’ve just had good golfers come up, they keep wanting to play, I didn’t have to recruit anyone to come out and play or anything,” he said. “We’ve tried to do a really good job to get kids started young and get them in the summer program. We’ve tried to stem the tide as far as down years are concerned.
“For me, I don’t tinker a lot with swings or those things, I spend my time talking about course management. I talk about how you can make a bogey out of a bad shot, when to be aggressive, when par is OK or bogey is better than something worse.”
The success that PV has found in recent years is particularly important to Compan given the fact that Andover isn’t viewed as a booming golf area.
“This (winning six-straight conference titles) is big, really big for us, especially here at PV, it’s a little different, Grand Valley is in same boat, there’s not a lot of country club kids,” he said. “We’ve got a little nine-hole course and to get these kids to see there’s some life outside of Andover and get them to play in these summer tournaments and get a few off to college is great.
“We’ve taken ownership of the streak and the program, and we’ve had a lot of fun the last couple years.”
Compan said coaching is something he’s always been passionate about after golfing at Baldwin-Wallace College.
“I played college golf, this is something that’s in my blood,” he said. “I don’t have any plans on stopping any time soon. It’s nice because golf isn’t a high-stress sport. I get to hang out with the kids and it keeps you competitive as a coach.”
For any team that thinks next year will be the year they finally knock PV off the mantel of the conference, it won’t be easy.
The Lakers lose just two seniors and Compan will be there to guide the returners.
“It’s nice this year because we have good balance throughout our team,” he said. “We have two seniors, two juniors, a sophomore and three or four freshmen.
“It gives us the balance to maintain some success.”
Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.