The Hillsboro High School golf team has a modified ?Danny and the Miracles? scenario this year as it considers its potential for post-season success.
No, there are no national titles within reach of the Trojans, as there turned out to be for Danny Manning and the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks.
But Hillsboro does have one of the best golfers in the state in senior Daniel Kunantaev, and, with a little more help from a returning core of three to five teammates, he could lead the squad to a state tournament appearance this spring.
Coach Scott O?Hare said ?miracles? aren?t required to reach that goal. All the veterans behind Kunantaev need to do is play up to their ability in tournament situations.
?We?ve talked about how last year maybe we underachieved on what we should have been able to do,? O?Hare said. ?We had a number of guys who could play well on any given day, but seemed to struggle in the competition aspect.
?The potential was there, and is still there. They just need to learn to transfer their golfing abilities to tournament situations.?
That bug bit even Kunantaev at last year?s state tournament. After placing fourth individually as a freshman and tying for second as a sophomore, he struggled to a 20th-place tie last spring.
?Although last year his state medal wasn?t one he was real pleased with, he?s one whose sheer golfing ability is as good as anyone around,? O?Hare said. ?Every once in a while he?ll let things get in his head a little bit. That happened at state. A couple things didn?t go his way and he let it turn on him a bit.?
O?Hare said Kunantaev seems to have processed that episode in a healthy way.
?He realizes that to be where he wants to be this year, we?re going to have to work pretty hard on the mental side of the game,? O?Hare said. ?He has a goal of winning the state tournament, and he has the capability of doing that.
Gang of three
Three experienced letter-winners return to contribute their part of Hillsboro?s four-man-team dream: seniors Daniel Dick and Jared King and sophomore Devin Dick.
?All three of them have the potential to play pretty solid.? O?Hare said. ?They?re all good ball strikers.?
The key, he said, is for them to develop the mental toughness not to let one bad hit lead to several more.
?Of the 18 holes, they might have 13 to 15 pretty good holes?and then have two or three holes that just tore them up, taking those double, triple and quadruple bogeys,? O?Hare said.
?For all three of those guys, it?s going to be a matter of eliminating big numbers on any given hole?if they have a bad shot, they can recover and have it cost them only one stroke, not two or three.?
The leading candidates on O?Hare?s 15-man roster to fill the remaining two slots in the six-man varsity lineup are sophomore Thane Hurst and senior Evan Just.
Hurst was contributing to the varsity last year as a freshman, but had to end his season prematurely to deal with a health issue. Just, meanwhile, played mostly at the junior varsity level last season, but was promoted to varsity after Hurst had to withdraw.
?It would be very beneficial if we could get Thane on track and pull Evan along with him?then just have the other guys compete up to their potential,? he said.
The Trojans open their tournament season April 6 at Herington. The team will have its annual home tournament April 9, and will host half of the Marion County Invitational in partnership with Marion May 7.