Hawks struggle to meet expectations in Div. III state golf

What might have been for the Hiland Hawks had they played their game at the 2015 Ohio High School Athletic Association Div. III state golf tournament Oct. 15-16 on the legendary Ohio State University Scarlett Golf Course.

Difficult playing conditions of wind and cold temperatures made an already daunting golf course that much more formidable for the 12 qualifying golf teams, and the gigantic sand traps and slippery greens haunted Hiland, which had played so well at districts in qualifying for state after two near misses the prior two years.

Hiland’s two-day total of 691 was well above what they have projected, and the score left them tied for sixth place, 33 shots off the pace set by Lancaster Fisher Catholic.

Had the Hawks played their usual game, it would have been a very interesting finale with Fisher Catholic.

It wouldn’t have taken a great deal to get them past Arlington (690) and into fifth place. But it was not to be on this weekend, despite Hiland having the individual medalist in Mark Schlabach, who fashioned a two-day total of 151, and Adam Grate, who earned second-team All-Ohio honors with his 159.

“I am so excited for those two guys,” said Hiland coach Austin Kaufman. “With this weather under these conditions, playing as well as they did under that kind of pressure was so impressive. They have definitely worked hard in earning this honor.”

A tough day one forced Hiland to try to play catch up, and while the team shot 11 strokes better as a whole on day two, it wasn’t enough to make any kind of major impact.

The biggest struggles for Hiland came courtesy of the monstrous sand bunkers. Kaufman said there is simply no way to emulate the depth and size of the Scarlett sand traps, and when his team got in trouble in day one, it was much due to those hazardous traps that invited far too many wayward Hiland shots into their gaping mouths.

“We couldn’t get ourselves out of trouble once we got into it,” said Kaufman of the traps.
Then there was the lightning-fast greens, which produced more than their fair share of three-putts.

“They were so huge and fast, that we had trouble figuring out the speed,” said Kaufman of the greens and the struggles to putt for his Hawks. “I think those factors along with some definite nerves caused us to put ourselves in a bad place after the first day.”

The always-calm Mark Schlabach shared medalist honors on the day with a great score of 74 and Adam Grate shot an acceptable 84. But three-man Jacobn Kalmam, who has been so instrumental to the meteoric success of this team, limped home with a 100, while Tremper Coblentz shot a 98 and Johnny Mullet carded a 99.

“I felt awful for Jacob because he has played so well this year,”” said Kaufman. “But it was a team effort that put us in a hole.”

Even Schlabach said he should have shot better, leaving shots on the course with three three-putts.

Day two was a little better, as Hiland produced a 336, the 19-stroke improvement the best of the day for any team in the running for the top five spots.

Grate’s 75 and Schlabach’s 77 were aided by Coblentz’ big turnaround, his score a much better 89. Kalman again struggled but was able to carve off five shots for a 95.

It was not the finish Hiland had hoped for in a season of great accomplishment, but getting to state and playing their final match of the year with Div. III’s best was a huge stepping stone for the program.

What made this Hiland team stand out, according to Kaufman, was the leadership from its three seniors, Schlabach, Grate and Kalman. Those three played a lot of golf in tournaments this summer, along with Coblentz, a sophomore, and that effort is what paid off, according got their coach.

“Hopefully the ones coming behind them see their work and dedication and say, ‘Hey, I am going to do that so I can be in that same place some day,’” said Kaufman.

Kaufman said the pipeline to the varsity level is well stocked right now for several years to come, and this success story will hopefully lead them to work as hard as this group did.

“We’ll have to do some work to get back here, but the table is set in terms of what we know we need to do to get here,” said Kaufman. “It takes dedication and a lot of work.”

Grate said the team met the night after day one and talked about just trying not to overachieve on day two. He thought they did a better job of that, but the course just played so difficulty it made shooting low 80s a tough proposition.

He did say, despite the higher-than-normal scores, that the Hawks saw real growth this year.

“We definitely got a whole lot better, and we have been able to play under pressure situations a lot better,” said Grate. “We’ve just learned to handle things better in terms of course management, and that has helped the program.”

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