Depth key for Trojan golf

The return of all four members of his Class 2A state tournament team, combined with an influx of five experienced and/or athletic newcomers, has Hills­boro golf coach Scott O’Hare feeling pretty upbeat about the upcoming season.

O’Hare began the 2016 season with five roster players and finished with the minimum four required to post a team score.

The four returning state players—Car­­son Herbel, Elliot Ollen­burger, Colin Settle and Elias Werth—combined for a score of 409 to finish 10th among the 12 teams competing in Salina.

The Trojan coach believes having a larger roster of capable players will have a positive effect on team success.

“I really think we have a great chance to improve our team scores from what we shot last year,” he said. “When you have six varsity players instead of counting on four, that gives us the flexibility to drop a couple of high scores.

“Also, if one of those guys has a stretch of bad holes, or doesn’t turn in a good score that day, he doesn’t have to feel so much pressure that, ‘I’m letting the team down.’ He can have it in the back of his mind that they have teammates out there who can still play.

“I’m hoping having a full group will allow them to play more relaxed.”

Seniors

O’Hare’s roster includes four seniors, three juniors and two sophomores.

Herbel is the only returning state qualifier among the seniors.

“Carson hadn’t played competitive golf before last year,” O’Hare said. “He had experience playing with his family, but last year was really his first year for formal instruction and competition. He made tremendous strides. By mid to late season, he was starting to post some very respectable numbers for his first year of competition.”

Alex Dalke was on the golf team early in his high school career, but opted not to play last season.

“Early on in high school, the competition aspect wasn’t something he was after,” O’Hare said. “He just enjoyed playing golf. But he wants to be a part of it again, and is hitting the ball pretty consistently. I think he will be one of those who will compete for a varsity spot.”

Another candidate is Caroline Roth, an exchange student from Germany.

“She actually has had some for formal training in golf,” O’Hare said. “It’s apparent that she knows what she’s doing and what she’s talking about.”

Senior Jeff Jorgenson is new to competitive golf, but O’Hare said he’s catching up quickly.

“One thing really nice about Jeff is that he’s pretty athletic, has good hand-eye coordination and he’s very coachable.”

Juniors

Ollenburger, Settle and Werth all return as juniors.

“All three of them played our entire varsity schedule last year and all three competed for us at the state tournament,” O’Hare said. “All three have a tremendous up-side, especially with another year of experience under their belt. The extra competition we’ll get in practice will get them to buckle down and focus.”

Sophomores

Two sophomores round out the roster. Joe Knoll and Darian Ratzlaff are new to competitive golf, but both are blessed with athleticism and a competitive nature, according to O’Hare.

“Joe was part of our junior golf program for a few years, so he’s had some instruction,” he said. “Again, he’s a very athletic kid so he’s able to pick up on things pretty fast.

Ratzlaff, meanwhile, has had limited exposure to the game.

“It’s been pretty foreign for him,” O’Hare said. “But once again, he’s a very athletic kid and a kid who’s very competitive. He wants to do well”

Season start

The Trojans will begin competition earlier than most years, with a tournament March 30 hosted by Sacred Heart at the Salina Municipal Golf Course, site of last year’s state tournament.

O’Hare said he’s looking most for continual improvement from this team.

“Solid ball-striking is going to be key, and then consistency,” he said. “We need to get over the mindset of hitting the ball a long way, but more so, hitting it where it’s in play and giving yourself a chance to score.

“I think finding more consistency in their game, and just building their confidence in what they’re capable of doing, will go a long way.”

The Trojans will make their home-course debut April 7 when they host the Hillsboro Invitational.