Although Clare Dolan is only one of a few girls participating in high school golf, she is something special to Seneca Valley's program.
Dolan was Seneca's top golfer at the end of last season, and helped the Eagles win the Maryland State high school championship.
"I really don't know what their (boys) reaction to me is. I'm too busy concentrating on my golf," said Dolan, a 16-year-old junior.
Until recent years, high school golf had opposing players competing in one-on-one match play, but now it is total strokes of the best five of six that determines the outcome.
Still, Dolan plays against the other team face to face. She encounters little resentment, although opponents usually leave the golf course beaten.
"The boys I play against--they're friendly, most of the time." she said.
The only concession Dolan receives is that she is allowed to play the shorter women's tees, instead of the white tees the boys play. "It doesn't bother me that I play the women's tees; it helps our team. I wouldn't mind playing from the whites. When we practice, I always play from the whites."
Practice is usually at nearby Montgomery Village Golf Club, where all Seneca players are members. The team lost only Bob Pellet and Joe Chontos through graduation. Returners from the title team are Chris Nelson, brother John Nelson, J.R. Shasteen, Steve Van Zupten and Bill Keeler. Ed Dolan, Clare's brother and a sophomore, will also try out.
"We'll be as good as we were last year, if not better," Dolan said. "Our whole team, anyone can play No. 1. We have a good time together. We all play the same course, so we play together all the time."
Dolan almost made history this summer. She came close to being one of the youngest ever to gain the final of the Maryland Women's Amateur, but was beaten in extra holes in the semifinals. Some of her accomplishments were winning the prestigious Bowers Junior, after being beaten in the finals the two previous years, and qualifying for the U.S. Golf Association Junior Girls championship in New Jersey
Dolan comes from a golfing family. Her father plays, and brother Bob is an assistant professional at Leisure World in Silver Spring.
Wootton, which beat Seneca twice last year and finished second in the state tournament, could again contend. Wootton has two exceptional players in John Mackey and Mike Watson. Mackey won the South Atlantic Junior and finished high in other summer tournaments. Watson, winner of the 14-15 age group in several summer events, also won that age division of the highly-regarded Florida Junior Invitational.
Whitman, which trailed Seneca Valley by one stroke before fading to fourth in last year's state tournament, lost four of its players. Forming this year's nucleous should be John Middleton, Peter Coe, Andy Slesnick, Evan Tracey and John Cummings.
Paint Branch, which finished third in the state, and Surrattsville, which finished fourth, could also challenge. Surrattsville has several golfers returning. Surrattsville, like all of Prince George's County, plays spring golf, but is eligible to try for the state tournament in autumn.
Bowie, a perennial Maryland power that does not play fall golf, failed to qualify for the state as a team last year, but had three players, Martin Carroll, Robert O'Branovich, and Carey Raivel, who qualified individually.
O'Branovich will return this year and the Bulldogs will attempt to get into the state tournament with the likes of Mike Luckett, Carey's brother Jason Raivel, and Glen Guenther.