ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
With a year’s experience under its belt, and having lost only one letter-winner, the Hillsboro golf team is poised to challenge for higher ground this season.
Coach Scott O’Hare hopes the experience will help the Trojans in the area they need it the most: playing as well on other courses as they do on their own.
“Already last year, they were a group of kids who could shoot well at times,” O’Hare said. “But they just struggled when we got into tournaments-whether it be the stress of competition or the differences in the courses, I don’t know yet.
“They got frustrated at tournaments because they knew they could shoot better, and just didn’t perform as well as they do here.”
O’Hare’s top performer and only state qualifier from a year ago is Andrew Bina, who is just a sophomore.
“Andrew Bina certainly has the ability to compete in many tournaments for medalist honors. He has a pretty sound golf game for a sophomore. He understands his swing and his golf game quite a bit, and he just really likes to play and is very competitive. He wants to do well.”
Next in line for the Trojans is Randy Klassen, O’Hare’s only senior.
“Randy Klassen has played varsity the last couple of years,” he said. “He should do well for us this season.”
Rounding out the experienced players in the top six are juniors Jordan Allen, Lance Bartel and Derek Hamm and sophomore Ricky Johnson.
“Most improved from the last year might be Ricky Johnson,” O’Hare said. “He was getting to where he was shooting some decent scores last year.
“His dad is a pretty good golfer, and they played a lot this summer. Ricky has kind of compacted his swing a lot. He was real loose last year, so that led to a lot of inconsistencies.
“But I certainly see improvement in most of those top six,” O’Hare said. “A lot of those guys played a lot of golf over the summer, just because they enjoy playing it.
“They didn’t do competitive golf that much. But just time on the course has helped them-plus just a year of maturity and understanding the game a little better.
“They’re certainly improved from where they left off last year.”
The Trojans’ roster includes 11 golfers. O’Hare said he has at least two newcomers who could make a case for a top-six spot: junior Kody Borg and freshman Darcy Unrau.
O’Hare said he won’t know how competitive his team will be this season until he sees them in action on other courses.
But in the Mid Central Activities Association, perennial powers Wichita Collegiate and Hesston will again battle for the top spot, O’Hare predicted.
“Whether we’re ready to compete with them yet, I don’t know,” he said. “But we should be upper-middle in the league. I think we have the ability to be, at least.”
Another highlight of the Trojans’ regular season will be the second annual Hillsboro/Marion tournament planned for May 7. The two schools will host up to 16 teams on their home courses for a unique 36-hole marathon.
“I was very pleased with how that went (last year),” he said. “We heard some great comments about it.”
The Trojans’ prospects in post-season play may depend on which regional they’re assigned to, O’Hare said.
“We want to try to qualify for state as a team,” he said. “There’s always that chance of being thrown in with Collegiate and Hesston and Wichita Independent and some of those schools. If so, we’re going to have to shoot very well to qualify.
“In some other regionals, I think we’d be right in the mix of it anyway-and this is a group of kids who have the possibility (of qualifying).
“It depends on how they progress and how they mature and how they experience the season.”
The Class 3A state tournament will be played down the road at Hesston.
Hillsboro will open its 2004 campaign Tuesday, April 6, at the Centre Invitational, which is played at Herington. Tee-off is set for 1 p.m.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF