The Hillsboro golf team will be teeing off for a third consecutive state tournament appearance this spring.
“I’ve got my three seniors who have been part of the two state-qualifying teams, and all three of them really seem to enjoy the game and have been very coachable,” coach Scott O’Hare said.
“They have made tremendous progress the past couple of season. I think they’re looking forward to finishing it off in much the same way.”
O’Hare’s three returning seniors, Elias Werth, Elliot Ollenburger and Colin Settle, will lead the team again in 2018.
“To get into state that sophomore year (2016) as a team was a big step for them,” O’Hare said. “That day at regionals was a miserable day. It was cold and it was raining essentially the entire round.
“There were times when a few of them weren’t sure they could finish, but they battled through it, and being able to go to state was a pretty cool moment for them.”
On their second trip to state, the Trojans finished sixth out of 12 schools competing at the Class 2A tournament in Garden City.
O’Hare said his goal for the team, last year and this year, isn’t necessarily going to state, but lowering their team score to be more competitive in every tournament.
“All of them had their individual goals, but our hope was to shoot in the 330s—which we haven’t seen in a few years,” O’Hare said. “We didn’t quite hit it. We got down to 341, which was our low score last year.
“I think they’re pretty excited to see what they’re capable of doing individually. I know a couple of them have the goal to shoot in the 70s, and a few of them have that potential.”
A full team score requires four golfers. Last year a pair of sophomores, Darian Ratzlaff and Joe Knoll, came out for the team for the first time and contributed significantly to the team’s success.
Knoll will miss his junior season due to shoulder surgery, but Ratzlaff is back.
“This is only his second season,” O’Hare said, “but he’s really come a long way. I anticipated he could if he was really serious about learning. He’s so athletic and also pretty coachable.”
O’Hare said athletic endeavors came so naturally to Ratzlaff that frustration with golf nearly led him to quit the sport.
“I think he got an appreciation for the difficulty of it,” O’Hare said. “By the end of the season, though, I think he took second at our JV invitational, so he was beginning to see some rewards for getting better.”
The payoff should continue this season.
“If we can get three pretty solid scores, we just need a fourth score that is respectable, and as a group they can still finish pretty decently,” O’Hare said.
Given his experience, Ratzlaff is likely the fourth score. But three untested golfers have joined the team as well: Avery Unruh, a junior, and freshmen Paul Glanzer and Zach Dittert.
“Avery is coming out for competitive golf for the first time,” O’Hare said. “He has taken up the game within the past year or so.
“He actually hits the ball pretty well,” O’Hare said. “Early on it’s been a little hard to adjust, but he’s extremely coachable and works hard at it.”
Completing this year’s roster are freshmen Paul Glanzer and Zach Dittert.
“Golf’s not new for Paul—he’s been in our junior golf program for a few years,” O’Hare said. “He’s had some instruction to some degree and has been around the golf course and understands some things about the game.
Dittert, meanwhile, is new to the game.
“The first day we went out for practice may have been the first day he swung a club to the ball,” O’Hare said. “He’s got a really good personality and demeanor for golf.” he added.
Hillsboro opens its competitive season April 3 at Herington.
The Trojans will host their first home tournament April 6 with a field of nine schools.
Hillsboro’s invitational tournament is schedule for May 4 with 16 schools competing. This year, Hillsboro will be hosting a Class 2A regional tournament as well.
“I’m just excited about helping the guys improve and I’m looking forward to getting out in some tournaments to see how they compete at that point.”