Solon's version of the PGA Tour's Qualifying School gets under way Monday morning at Grantwood Golf Course when potential Comet players will tee off for the first of four rounds.
Players who can consistently score well will make it to the varsity and junior varsity teams. Monday's first round of nine holes will be followed by three straight 18-hole rounds to determine the top players for the 2011 season.
"We usually get about 30 kids trying out and we keep about half of them," said seventh-year head coach Jeff Aker. "It's very competitive. We base it mainly on scores but also grade level. It usually comes down to a shot or two, just like a regular tournament."
Aker knows something about the pressure golf can bring for players of all ages. He caddied for former PGA pro Bob Dickson in the 1973 PGA held at Canterbury in Cleveland and also carried the bag in a pair of Cleveland Opens. Aker began caddying at Acacia Country Club at age 11 and continued to carry bags all the way through his college years.
"We'll be in a bit of a rebuilding mode this season," said Aker. "We graduated four seniors but do have two from our core group back."
Seniors David Rudary and Jim Tornatore will be looked to this fall as top players for the Comets. Rudary was a First Team All-River Division choice last year when he averaged 39 strokes per nine holes as a co-captain. Tornatore averaged 41 and both players have potential to put together solid seasons for Solon.
"David is pretty long off the tee and doesn't have any glaring weaknesses," said Aker. "Jim is very consistent and keeps the ball in the fairway."
Senior Anthony Stames is also back from last year's team that went 8-12 overall against a rugged schedule. Sophomore Justin Razzante played in a few varsity matches as a freshman last year and will also be a factor during next week's qualifying rounds.
"We have a whole bunch of juniors who will be trying out next week," said Aker. "Rudary and Tornatore will have to play well for us to be competitive."
Solon's first event of the new season is Aug. 8 at Pine Hills for the Brunswick Classic. That is followed up by the Kenston Invitational at Punderson, The Twinsburg Invitational at Gleneagles, the Aurora Invitational at Barrington and the Mentor Invitational at Quail Hollow. The Comets will play at Windmill Lakes for the Northeast Ohio Conference Tournament and will be tested by the Little Mountain layout in the season-ending Northeast Ohio Invitational.
That's quite an assortment of the area's top courses and just the way Aker likes it.
"We have a really tough schedule and we always like to play in the tough tournaments," he said. "The kids get to play on some nice courses and they get to go up against the best teams."
Solon will once again play the majority of its home matches at Grantwood but will also play at Signature of Solon. "It's like baseball," said Aker. "You try to win your home matches and steal one or two on the road."
Perennial powers Stow and Hudson will once again be favored and the River Division will get even stronger this year with the addition of Mentor.
But thoughts of those matches will be put aside beginning Monday at Grantwood, when once and future Comet golfers will be put to the test.