Gaithersburg High School's golf team, overflowing with talented players, appears to have the strongest roster among Montgomery County schools.
Although most schools play golf in the spring, the state tournament at the University of Maryland is held in the fall, which should give Montgomery schools -- which play a spring and a fall schedule -- an advantage.
Leading Gaithersburg is senior Dan Murphy, a transfer from California. Murphy has been turning in some of the lowest scores in the county, including a 66 in interdivision competition at Germantown Country Club.
Gaithersburg also has the best female scholastic golfer in the county, sophomore Tara Hipp. In Gaithersburg's first match, Hipp, playing No. 5, finished with an 83. In her second match, she played No. 4 and shot 79.
Hipp began the school year after a busy summer of golf, including a runner-up standing in the PGA junior qualifying rounds and a victory in the North Carolina Tar Heel Open.
Joining Hipp is Jeff Miehe, who arrived in Maryland less than a month ago from California. Although Miehe's first two match scores were an 81 and an 83, Coach Jack Weiland expects Miehe to shoot in the mid-70s.
"Jeff's having some problems adjusting to golfing out here rather than in California," said Weiland. "There's a definite difference in these sands and greens versus the ones he's used to, but he has a strong drive . . . and a good touch."
At Seneca Valley, Ed Dolan is the top golfer. Last fall in the state tournament, Ed's sister, Claire, now attending Stanford University, captured the girls individual title and joined with Ed and this year's No. 2 man, Randy Barnes, to win the team championship.
"This year, there are only a few guys in the county that can shoot under par," said Dolan, "but it's still going to be tough for our team. Gaithersburg is the team to beat, and we're underdogs. . . . I think that with work, we can take 'em."
Churchill's Keith Robertson is considered by some coaches and players to be the longest driver in the county.
"On top of that (his driving capability), he seems to thrive on competition," said his coach, Max Rinker. Robertson was a state tournament competitor last year and although he has had problems with his putting game, it has significantly improved.
Whitman senior Jon Krimm had a 75 in his season opener and followed the next week with a 74. With strong support from No. 2 man Andrew Sharnprapai, Vikings Coach Marty Dickerson feels his team has state potential.
"There's a lot of pressure on Jon and our other top golfers because of our lack of depth," said Dickerson, "but they've been learning a lot lately. Jon has been able to become a better golfer because he has recently had a lot of experience under high-pressure situations. He understands the game better, in addition to the fact that he's hitting longer, putting better and playing an all-round more consistent game."
Rockville's Hap Peden is not only an experienced player, but a trophy winner. This summer's achievements include titles in the Sentinel tournament, the Pro Junior tournament and the Nordlinger Cup. Additionally, Peden was runner-up in the Tournament of Champions at Kenwood Country Club.
"My experience this summer hasn't necessarily given me a longer drive or a straighter shot, just better course management -- fewer dumb mistakes," he said.
Although Peden's scores thus far this season have been in the mid-70s, he adds, "I'd like to develop what I feel is a consistent game. Hopefully, that will come with even more experience."