Green is the traditional color of spring, and it may be the best adjective to describe coach Scott O’Hare’s Hillsboro golf team.
“We are so inexperienced— not just in golf, but competitive golf in particular,” O’Hare said. “That’s brings a whole new level to it all.”
Six of the seven team members have one year or less of competitive golf experience.
The team’s top player, junior Evan Ollenburger, is only beginning his third year of competitive golf. But O’Hare said Ollenburger, who nearly qualified for state last spring, has tools that make up for a lack of longevity.
“He’s just naturally pretty athletic, he has good coordination, he’s a hard worker no matter what he does and he’s a competitor,” O’Hare said.
“You put all those things together and you have the working of someone who could be a pretty good golfer. He’s willing to work at things because he wants to be good, and he has some natural things going for him athletically that just help him pick up the game a lot easier.”
O’Hare said Ollenburger is a legitimate contender for a state berth this season.
“Last year he only missed it by one stroke. It wasn’t in a great regional, but he still shot a pretty solid round, and he had a few solid rounds last year,” O’Hare said. “If we can improve just a few areas of his game, he could shoot some pretty good numbers this year.”
The Trojans have one senior on the roster. Andrew Meier played golf as a sophomore but sat out last year.
“He has some ability and seems so far to be coachable in what he’s doing,” O’Hare said. “He’s shown some promise as far as contact with the ball. And he’s pretty excited to be playing again. That’s always a positive.”
Backing up the two upperclassmen are three sophomores, Phillip Ediger, Graham Pankratz and Jordan Simmons, and two freshmen, Stephen Brazil and Bradon Truitt.
The three sophomores came out last year as freshmen.
“Jordan had some previous playing experience with his family, but the other two were really coming into golf fairly new,” O’Hare said. “They are many times better already than they were a year ago. You can tell they have retained some of what they learned last year.”
The trio benefits from simply being a year older and more mature.
“They already have some general knowledge about golf that helps them understand what their mistakes are,” he said. “Therefore, they have a better understanding how to fix them.”
Brazil and Truitt are newcomers to the game.
“Stephen and Bradon have never really played golf or had any formal instruction,” O’Hare said, adding with a smile: “They indicated they’ve played some Putt-Putt and have hit some balls on the driving range.”
That said, O’Hare said the two show potential.
“Although far from consistent yet, they do have swings that can make good contact with the ball at times. It’s just going to take a lot of reps so they feel comfortable hitting the ball in that way.”
O’Hare said he likes the approach his players have brought to early practices.
“So far everybody has been willing to listen and work on the things I’m showing them,” he said.
The Trojans won’t challenge for team titles this season, although Ollenburger could score well individually.
O’Hare said he may not bring a full team of six to every tournament. And, although Ollenburger is his best golfer, O’Hare may not always place him against the No. 1 players from other schools, if the format allows it.
“But I think he’s going to want to be with some of the best sometimes just to see what he can do,” O’Hare added.
As for goals, O’Hare has identified a team score of 350 as the target to shoot for.
“Last year our team scores really struggled. We were consistently shooting in the 380s to the low 400s—which is way out of the norm for groups of golfers I’ve had in the past,” he said.
O’Hare said he hopes setting a team goal, rather than individual goals, will motivate his players to improve as the season progresses.
“If we can get four guys to shoot 90, that’s only 10 strokes off our goal,” he said. “If one or two guys drop some strokes off of that, we can be at 350.
“That’s our goal for right now, and hopefully we can reach it in enough time to lower it as we get later into the season. It just puts some accountability on them to be part of that team score.”
Hillsboro’s competitive schedule is heavy early, has a lull in the middle, then picks up again toward the end. The heavy start is not ideal for a young team, but O’Hare said it will enable them to identify areas for improvement, and then work on those areas during the additional practice time.
The Trojans’ first tournament will be April 2 at Herington. Three days later, they will host the Trojan Invitational starting at 3 p.m.
The Marion County Invitational, co-hosted by Hillsboro and Marion, is scheduled for May 3.