ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY DON RATZLAFF
Long on quality, short on quantity. That’s the situation Hillsboro High School golf coach Scott O’Hare sees as he prepares his team for the upcoming season.
On the quality end, O’Hare will have three golfers who have the ability to compete for a top-10 individual medal at every tournament.
“I have probably my top two from last year coming back with Andrew Bina, a three-year letter-winner and two-time state qualifier,” O’Hare said. “He certainly leads the team going in.
“Justin Kent, last year as a freshman, medaled in the top 10 in three different tournaments and was right in the mix in a couple of others,” he added “He certainly returns with good varsity experience and was one of my top players.
“That obviously will be the core of the team coming back.”
Add to that duo a bright freshman prospect in Elliott Soyez, who has competed successfully in the Kansas Junior Golf Association for several years, including a couple of top-10 finishes.
“Certainly getting Elliot Soyez in as a freshman will be a positive thing for us because he has played a lot of competitive golf and in many tournaments throughout the summer.
“He’s somebody who’s going to be coming in with a lot of experience.”
Those three would make a solid core for almost any high school team in Class 3A. Unfortunately, it takes four scores to compete for team honors. In fact, most schools enter a team of six golfers and then take the top four scores.
“We’re going to be able to post three pretty good scores at a number of events,” O’Hare said. “It’s just whether or not a few of these other guys can develop to bring in a fourth score to help the team.”
This early in the season, it appears the best hope among “the other guys” is junior Darren Enns.
“Darren Enns is a person who came into high school without much golfing experience other than occasionally maybe some outings with his family,” O’Hare said. “The past couple of years he’s taken to it fairly seriously in that he really wants to get better at it and he practices at it.
“By the end of last year, he was shooting some improved scores. I think he’s one who can come in and possibly fill a spot.”
Beyond Enns, the rest of the roster lacks significant competitive experience, and some are beginning players.
“We had a couple of JV meets rained out (last year), and they weren’t always getting out on our course a lot either,” O’Hare said. “I just don’t know for sure, after Darren, what’s out there.”
Juniors Daniel Miller and Zach Magnuson came out for the team a year ago, but junior Peter Bartel, sophomore Alex Jost and freshmen Josh Garrett and Jake Kenney are new to the team and relatively new to the sport.
“If you get three rounds in the low to mid 70s and another round in the mid to upper 80s, you’re still going to score pretty well as a team,” O’Hare said.
“Our problem will be that I’m relying on those three to shoot really well and one more to shoot decently, at least-that all has to happen on the same day, and that’s tough.”
For that reason, the Trojan coach realizes his team will find it difficult to compete for the league title, especially against perennial powers Wichita Collegiate and Hesston, who annually come loaded with teams of six strong competitors.
Without some pleasant and fairly dramatic surprises from the rest of the roster, Hillsboro’s best chance to make an impact will be at the individual level with Bina, Kent and Soyez.
“My expectation would be to bring those three guys as potential top-10 medalists at every tournament,” O’Hare said. “My team expectations down the road-I’ll feel better when I see how those guys can play and what we can develop into.
“With three quality kids like we have, the team races are not out of the question-especially at some of the (less competitive) tournaments we go to.”
Hillsboro will open the season April 4 at the Centre Invitational at Herington. The Trojans will compete in two varsity tournaments on the home course: April 7 for the Hillsboro Invitational and May 5 for the Marion County Invitational, which is a 36-hole tournament split between the Hillsboro and Marion courses.