“Our goal is to get back to (the state championships),” he said. “We want to win it. We’ve improved every year, and we want to finish higher than we did last year. And there’s no higher than No. 1”
Burden has a good reason to be so optimistic.
Lassiter returns its entire roster of six golfers from last season, which saw the Trojans win the Region 5AAAAA championship and finish eighth at the state meet. Burden has also added three other talented golfers, bringing depth to a squad that already had the makings to contend for a state title.
“Everybody in our region is going to be shooting for us,” Burden said. “We were a little under the radar last year, but now we’re marked as the team to beat. While that can be a concern, we’re looking at it as a challenge.
“This is a tough region, and we love having that bull’s-eye on our backs. We’re not guaranteed anything. It’s a unique sport in that regard. These guys want to be No. 1, and to get there is a tough price to pay, but they’re willing to do it.”
Lassiter’s recent success hasn’t been a matter of luck, but one of opportunity.
The Trojans hadn’t had much to celebrate over the years — that is, until two years ago, when Lassiter clinched its first tournament title in team history with a victory at the inaugural City Club Invitational, which featured 11 of the county’s teams.
Spurred on by two freshmen and a sophomore in that year’s starting lineup, the Trojans planted the seed that they would become a force to be reckoned with. Last year, with one junior and five sophomores, they added the Region 5AAAAA crown and a top-10 finish at state.
In preparing for the 2012 season, Lassiter’s roster includes seniors Michael Toler and Andrew Couch, juniors Max Weyrick, Adam Wright, Brody Judd, Parker Usry, Bart Baukenert and Kevin Nichols and freshman Billy LeProhon. Couch, Nichols and LeProhon are newcomers.
Toler will be out the first six weeks of the season after suffering an injury to his right wrist, and he will need time to get back into playing shape when he is medically cleared, which Burden expects should come in about a month’s time. Entering his fourth year as a starter, Toler expects to be ready to go when the region tournament arrives in April.
“Everybody’s back, so I’m really excited for the season,” he said. “We worked hard during the offseason — first through sixth man — and we should be really good this year.
“I think our depth is our biggest strength. We have more people who want to play, and we have five to seven golfers who can put up low scores on any given day. That’s nice to have.”
According to Burden, Lassiter’s biggest challengers for another region title will be Walton and Woodstock. The Trojans needed four playoff holes to beat the Raiders for last year’s crown, and it’s possible the matchup could go into another playoff this season.
“Walton returns everyone, too,” Burden said, “and Woodstock a strong team each year. This region is difficult, so you’ll have to play well on that day, or else.”
“That day” Burden refers to is the Region 5AAAAA championship. For him, the rest of the season is just a precursor and means nothing in the grand scheme of things.
“We didn’t play great golf as a team last year until region,” he said. “We maybe had one or two good golfers score-wise, but it all came together at region.
“It will be a disappointing season if we don’t play well on that day. We gear ourselves up the entire year to be one of those two teams at the top of the leaderboard at region. Qualifying for state is our goal.”