In professional soccer, contests between two nations like Mexico and the United States that don’t have a great deal of meaning are known as friendlies.
On Wednesday, Aug. 15 with no league connotations and tournament titles on the line, West Holmes hosted Hiland in what felt a lot like a friendly at Fire Ridge Golf Course, where both coaches talked about the match being an opportunity to simply make their team better.
While the Knights shot a respectable 171, the Hawks didn’t have a whole lot of room for improvement in firing off a low score of 152 to capture the win.
Hiland was paced by Dylan Kaufman, who shot an even-par 36 on the front side at Fire Ridge while junior classmate Bruce Yoder was right behind at 37, missing a four-footer on the final hole to tie his teammate. Adding to the terrific team score for the Hawks were freshmen Carter Mishler and Brookston Hummel, who shot 39 and 40, respectively. Garret Shoup and Carson Yoder rounded out Hiland’s night with rounds of 45 and 47.
The Knights were led by Evan Yoder, who overcame two double-bogeys to fire off a solid round of 38, dropping three birdies along the way. Carter Hahn tacked on a 39 as he stayed hot in the early going this season. Brett Mirich, celebrating his 18th birthday, played well outside of two holes. He was nine over par. Aside from those two holes, he played the rest of the course at just two over par.
Freshman Hunter Ellis rounded out the scores with a 47. Brody Allen added a 51, and Cody Miller ended up with a 54. West Holmes also celebrated the return of Gavin Christine, who returned from a broken arm. Christine, a seasoned varsity player, played on the junior varsity, but he should quickly round back into form and be a key to the Knights progress this year.
“It will be nice to have Gavin back because he will give us another strong score and take some of the pressure off the rest of the guys to have to play great golf every night, which will only make us better,” West Holmes coach Isaac Haver said.
As for taking on a Hiland team that has posted some astounding numbers this fall, Haven said playing that kind of quality opponent is only going to help his team.
“I know how hard this Hiland team works, and whether we come here and win or lose by 20 strokes, seeing the way they approach the game is good for our kids to see, and we can use that as an example of how we need to work in the offseason,” Haver said. “That is the blueprint, and it has paid off for them. As for our score, we played pretty well tonight. I thought both Evan and Carter did a good job of staying focused after a bad hole or two, and really, Brett only had two holes that really hurt him tonight. Aside from those two holes, he was right there and was playing well.”
As he has the past couple of matches, Haver has teamed up his freshman Ellis with Yoder in the first group, electing to allow Hahn and Mirich to play together because they seem to mesh well. He also likes the idea of Ellis learning from Yoder, who is steady and never seems to get rattled no matter what.
“I like the idea that Hunter is getting a chance to play with some really good competition and get challenged because the ability is there. He just needs to learn and grow into the game,” Haver said.
He added that in addition to Christine coming back, his freshman five- and six-man tandem of Allen and Miller have both shown some growth lately and are gaining ground on learning the game and lowering their scores, which he said is exciting for this year and for the future.
Hiland coach Austin Kaufman said of his team’s effort on the night that a score of 152 is always welcomed, but it didn’t seem like any of his players were satisfied with what the end result produced.
“These kids are diehards,” coach Kaufman said. “They are students of the game, and they generally aren’t satisfied because they always feel that they can play better. They are taking every opportunity like this one tonight to come out and hone their skills and get better as players.”
While both teams wanted a win, it was interesting to watch as each team finished up its varsity round. Both varsity squads sat on top of the hill on hole number nine and rooted for their reserve players, some of whom hit shots that rattled the pin or lipped out the hole.
It was encouraging for both coaches to see that kind of commitment to their teammates, and it added an extra layer of camaraderie to the entire evening, one that already felt more like an exhibition match than a cutthroat dual.