This story originally appeared in the July 14 edition of the Weekly LINK Reader. To get these stories first, subscribe here.
When it comes to posing for celebratory photographs, Mitchell Gastright doesn’t mind standing next to other Covington Catholic High School people who are a lot taller than he is. With a 6-foot-5 golf coach and a slew of tall teammates, Gastright really hasn’t had a choice in the matter.
“I’m 5-9,” Gastright said. “That’s just the way it is right now.”
What matters to Gastright is not the length of his frame but the strength of his game.
“I felt like I could be playing better, so my dad has got me in the gym,” he said. “It feels like I’m getting stronger.”
As a result, he’s definitely getting longer off the tee. Gastright, 17, is capable of driving a golf ball up to 300 yards, a number that’s nearly twice his weight of 155 pounds.
“I’ve always hit the ball as far as anyone,” Gastright said. “I feel like my mechanics really help me out. Getting stronger is just going to make me better.”
Pound for pound, Colonels coach Alex Ammerman said Gastright just might be one of the best high school golfers in Kentucky. The rising senior has ascended to the No. 1 spot on a deep and talented Colonels squad after a solid showing in his first three years.
Gastright underscored his ascent by winning last month’s 21st Lexington City Junior Championship at Kearney Hill Golf Links with a two-day score of 3-under-par 141. He shot 70 the first round for a two-shot lead and kept a stranglehold on the competition with a second-round score of 71.
“I think I had nine birdies in the tournament,” Gastright said. “When I make birdies, that tells me I’m doing things right.”
Coach Ammerman, himself a former CovCath golfer, admires the way Gastright attacks the course, a playing trait that produces birdies in bunches.
“As he’s gotten stronger, he’s gotten better,” the coach said. “A lot of what makes Mitchell a good golfer is he’s a good athlete. And he’s really consistent, so he’s got a high floor.”
That consistency was on display in Lexington, where Gastright carded nine-hole splits of 34, 37, 35 and 35.
“He’s having a good summer,” Ammerman said. “We know he’s going to have a good senior year.”
Gastright set the bar pretty high his first three years.
“Mitchell has played varsity golf at Covington Catholic since he was a freshman, which is very rare,” coach Ammerman said. “He’s got a great attitude. The harder I am with him, the better he responds.”
Gastright has a career-low score of 74 in high school tournament play. He has shot 75 in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Region 7 Tournament in back-to-back seasons. He had an individual finish of third place at last year’s regional, helping the Colonels to a runner-up team finish. He tied for 53rd at state. He was seventh regionally as a sophomore. An eight-time tournament medalist, he has qualified for state each of the last two seasons. He made a hole-in-one during a CovCath practice round on a 183-yard, par-3 at Ryland Lakes Country Club as a sophomore.
While perfection on the links is elusive, with one year left on the CovCath golf team, Gastright just wants to get it right one more time. To that end, he has greatly improved his short game and added 20 yards on his drives over the last year.
“I think we can win the region,” Gastright said. “So I want to play as well as I can.”
His coach has no doubts.
“Mitchell is an extremely hard worker,” Ammerman said. “The future is very bright for him.”
Ditto, for the team.
“We have a lot of good golfers, so our lineup will be extremely fluid,” Ammerman said. “Essentially, 2-7 will all be getting somewhat equal playing time.”
That group includes seniors Luke Pieper, Vince DiTommaso, Avery Stanley and incoming juniors Ben Unkraut, Nathan Arkenau and Jacob Thomas.
Their mighty mite is Gastright. He and his coach have the pictures to prove it.
“I’m usually the shorter guy in the picture,” Gastright said. “It’s OK. It just shows I can play with bigger guys.”
He could have been playing with baseball guys. He comes from a baseball-playing family. Looking back on things, Ammerman said Gastright picked the right sport.
“His mom showed me a picture of him when he was a freshman. He was only 5-foot-1, so he’s actually grown a lot,” Ammerman said. “He may not be the tallest kid, but not every golfer can be as tall as me.”
And that is pretty much the long and short of it when it comes to CovCath golf. The Colonels’ season starts July 20 at the Taylor County Tournament at Campbellsville Country Club.