The schools may share a border, and the rivalry might be one that helps put some added pressure on each individual golfer, but in the end, both Hiland coach Austin Kaufman and West Holmes coach Phil Schlabach wanted to see their players gain some experience and handle the pressure in an early season match at Fire Ridge Golf Course in Millersburg Wednesday, August 18.
In the end, neither team was thrilled with their effort on the rain-drenched course, but it was a fairly close contest that saw the Hawks eke out a 166-175 victory.
“I’m pretty sure there are more than a few kids out here tonight who would love to have some shots back,” said Schlabach.
“You’ll have that some times.”
Because of the deluge of water that built up from four straight days of rain leading into the event, the teams agreed to play winter rules, allowing teams to move balls. They also decided against playing the sand traps because many were filled with water.
Hiland was paced by Tremper Coblentz and Johnny Mullet, both of whom carded four-over par 40s on the Fire Ridge front side, nine holes that are considerably tougher to score on than the back nine. Bruce Yoder added a 42 and Claye Hummel chipped in with a 44, while Dylan Kaufman and Ethan Habager came home with 46 and 50, respectively.
“We are still trying to learn who we are right now,” said Kaufman. “The course was definitely playing tough tonight, but we left an awful lot of shots out on the course, and we added a pretty good number of three-putts that really added up.”
Kaufman said that his Hawks continually left themselves playing from above the hole on many occasions, meaning that all of their shots toward the pin ended up running away from the hole, thus making for plenty of treacherous efforts that were unnecessary.
They went through those struggles even after having practiced the course the night before.
“We’ve got to learn to be a little smarter with our course management,” said Kaufman.
For Coach Schlabach, it was a night of learning for a team that, while it has some experience at the top, has plenty of youth and question marks on the back side.
Senior Blaine Hager paced the Knights with a 41, while fellow senior Philip Schlabach and sophomore Carter Hahn carded 43s. Evon Yoder, who has been solid this season, struggled to a 48, while Jeff Miller added a 55.
Creating some stability and finding consistency continue to be a focal point of this year’s Knights’ squad.
“I don’t think the bigger scores were necessarily the condition of the course as much as the way we played tonight,” said Schlabach. “These were definitely not the scores we have been putting up here at practice, but that is the way it is sometimes when you add the pressure of playing a match. We have to learn to deal with that.”
Did the rivalry of a cross-county match add to the pressure?
“I tried not to play it up too much, but I know the kids probably put some added pressure on themselves because of it,” said Schlabach.
“Right now we are taking every opportunity to get better. We have some younger kids who don’t have a lot of varsity experience in Carter and Evon, who have actually played well so far, but are still inexperienced. Then we have four or five kids who will be fighting for the five and six spots. It will be interesting to see which ones step up and handle the pressure the best.
Right now, we just don’t have anyone who has taken ahold of those spots.”
All numbers aside, and rivalry too, it was a good night for the teams to evaluate their shortcomings and strengths and work toward making themselves better for when it matters most later in the year.