With the departure of six seniors from last year?s state-qualifying team, including Class 3A state champion Daniel Kunan?taev, the Hillsboro golf team will be sporting a new color in addition to the traditional maroon and gold.
?We?re awful green,? coach Scott O?Hare said.
His only returning player on a squad of six that has ripened in varsity competition is Devin Dick, who shot the fourth-best score for the Trojans? regional champion four-man team as a sophomore.
O?Hare said Dick can be a consistent medal contender this season if he can avoid the occasional bad hole on the course.
?Devin has a lot of potential to play well?and he does maybe 80 percent of the time,? O?Hare said. ?The other 20 percent just costs him. We?ve got to eliminate those bad holes and bad swings that get him in trouble.
?The phrase I?ve used with kids like him is, ?Don?t be a hero.? If you put yourself in a bad situation, don?t try to come up with this fabulous shot that?s low percentage. Some?times, take your medicine and chip out.?
Meanwhile, the five remaining players on this year?s team will be aiming for their first varsity experiences.
The Trojans have one senior, Daniel Kenney, who gathered junior-varsity experience when he played golf as a freshman and sophomore. He opted for track last year.
?He improved quite a bit in a couple of years,? O?Hare said of Kenney. ?Of course, stepping away for a year, we have a few things to work on to get him back to that point.?
Joining Dick as juniors are Kyler Borg and Casie Allen. Both played JV last year.
?Kyler might be one who has played as frequently as anybody (outside of the season),? O?Hare said. ?He has some experience, but just hasn?t gotten to the varsity level yet.
?Casie pretty well just took up golf in high school, but has made big improvements since he started out.?
Andrew Meier is the lone sophomore. ?Like Casie, Andrew hadn?t really played any golf until he got to high school,? O?Hare said. ?He improved through last year and played in some JV tournaments.?
Filling out the squad is freshman Evan Ollenburger.
?Working at the golf course, I?ve seen him come out there in summer and play with some friends,? O?Hare said. ?One thing about Evan is that he?s just an athletic kid and very coachable.
?I foresee him making some improvements very quickly. In fact, I already have seen some improvements here early in the season. He understands things pretty well and works hard at it.?
Given the overall experience level of his team, O?Hare said the Trojans won?t be compiling competitive team scores?at least early in the season.
In fact, O?Hare said one of his biggest coaching challenges this season will be deciding how many team members to take to varsity meets.
?Obviously as a team, I?d like to keep high expectations, and I will. But realistically, we?re going to struggle as a team. I don?t even know if I have six guys I can take to varsity meets.
?For varsity competition, you can take six golfers and you score the top four,? he said. ?I don?t know who they?d be yet, but I can foresee that we?d only take four to a number of varsity tournaments?and maybe even fewer than that.
?I?m not going to put kids into an uncomfortable position to where they?re not prepared to play to that level of competition,? O?Hare explained. ?I?ve got enough JV tournaments scheduled throughout the year to try to get them some tournament experience before I really throw them out there.?
O?Hare admitted he hasn?t done much analysis of the competition in the first year of the Central Kansas League.
?My whole focus has been what can I do to help these guys play the game of golf as quickly as possible,? he said. ?We?re not going to shoot good team scores, particularly early in the year.
?Sometimes, though, things just click, and when they find that thing that makes it click, they can drop a lot of strokes in a hurry. It?s just finding those things that click for each one of them.
The varsity season opens April 5 at Herington. The team will host a home tournament again this season, the Hillsboro Invitational on April 8, and will co-host with Marion the Marion County Invitational May 6.
The first CKL league tournament will be May 10 at Nicker?son.