ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY DON RATZLAFF
The preseason is always a time for high hopes in sports, but Hillsboro High School golf coach Scott O’Hare seems to have several good reasons for his.
Reason 1: A solid core of returning seniors.
“I have five seniors out, four of them played some varsity last year,” said O’Hare, in his seventh year as coach.
Those four are Lance Bartel, Jordan Allen, Derek Hamm and Kody Borg.
“Lance and Jordan and Derek have quite a bit of varsity experience,” O’Hare said. “Those three were on varsity for all or pretty much all of last year. They all have played quite a bit of golf in the summertime and are pretty excited about it.
“I’m looking for them to really improve, competition-wise. They love to play and last year they improved, but they still were struggling in competition formats.
“Hopefully, those guys will come around and really help us out.
“(Borg) wasn’t on my varsity all year last year, but he did place in varsity tournaments late in the season and played in the regional tournament for us. Again, he’s one of those who plays a lot in the summertime and has been around the game.”
Reason 2: A senior transfer who will make an impact.
“I think Patrick (Harrison) is going to be a big benefit for the team,” O’Hare said. “I think he’s really going to help us out with the experience he has. I know he’s played quite a little bit of golf.”
Harrison came to Hillsboro High this school year from Haysville.
Reason 3: O’Hare’s best golfer was a state qualifier a year ago as a sophomore.
“In my junior class, I have Andrew Bina back,” O’Hare said. “Andrew has been one of my top golfers the past couple of years. I expect him to be one of my top golfers again this year.”
Reason 4: A couple of promising freshmen.
“Certainly one of them would be Justin Kent,” O’Hare said. “Justin has a ton of golf experience, he plays all the time and played on the Kansas Junior Golf Association series in the summertime.
“He placed among the top two or three in all of the regional tournaments last summer, and placed well in his age group at the Kansas Junior Golf Association state tournament.
“I certainly look for him to have a very good opportunity to make the varsity squad and maybe even be an impact player on varsity.
“Another freshman with playing experience who could vie for varsity would be Dylan Porter, who also was involved in the Junior Golf program and has played a lot of golf on his own.”
O’Hare said with few opportunities to get on the course so far, it’s too early to know who will emerge as his top players. But the competition for varsity spots should be intense.
“I have eight or nine kids to fill a six-spot varsity squad,” O’Hare said. “It’s going to be disappointing to some kids who don’t make it. But at the same time, it will allow me to field a pretty good six-man team.”
In fact, O’Hare said he may have the best talent on his squad since his very first year at the helm in 1999. That team won its regional tournament and placed fourth at state.
“I don’t know if we’re at that level or not,” he said. “It depends on how a couple of these guys come through. I certainly look at it as being one of the more successful seasons we’ve had-if things come together and the guys commit to improving each week and each day.”
O’Hare is hoping the experience his team brings to the course this season will help it be mentally tougher in competition.
“I guess where we’ve struggled in the past several years has been with the mental aspect of the game and with consistent play,” he said.
“If we can get to that point where, in tournament competition, we can play up to our potential, I think we have a lot of good things to look forward to.”
The Trojans are scheduled to open their season April 5 at the Centre Invitational, which will be played at Herington. Tee-off is set for 1 p.m.
On Friday, Hillsboro will host its first tournament of the season. The Hillsboro Invitational is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start.
A highlight of the schedule once again will be the third annual Marion County Invitational, a 36-hole event on May 6 in which all participants play both the Hillsboro and Marion courses in a single day.
“People have really taken to that,” O’Hare said, noting the interest of schools. “We made improvements last year and I think we’ll have a pretty solid field there of 14 to 16 teams.”