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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Boys State Golf Tournament Preview

Bluebirds Hoping for Relaxed Play in State Tournament

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior Steven Grimme swings away in a match earlier this season. Highlands is making its first team appearance in the state tournament since 2010.
The current players may not be familiar with the Bowling Green Country Club.

But starting Monday with the Boys State Golf Tournament, the Highlands Bluebirds would not mind changing that. The Bluebirds will be making their first team appearance in the state tournament since winning the 8th Region in 2010.

Since then, Highlands saw 2015 graduate Parker Harris qualify individually three straight years between 2012 and 2014. Harris finished tied for 50th in the state tournament in 2014 as a senior.

Highlands qualified for the state tournament with a runner-up finish in the 8th Region Tournament on Monday at Houston Oaks Golf Course in Paris. Highlands shot a 344 finishing 18 behind region champion Grant County's 326 total.

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That score ties 11th Region runner-up Johnson Central for the highest score of the 24 teams to make it to state. The region champions and runner-up teams qualified for state in addition to the top three lowest-scoring individuals in each region not on either team. But Richey said the region course had a lot to do with the score.

"That was a college-style course. That was set up as hard of a regional tournament ever and I've played in several," Richey said. "That one was long. It was wet. The greens were fast. If you didn't hit it where you should, you were going to have an almost impossible put. So they did a good job of holding it together."

Highlands has two seniors on the team in Jackson Recht and Aaron Verst. Verst shot an 87 good for third for the Bluebirds in the region tournament. Highlands freshmen Luke Muller and JD Gabbard led the Bluebirds in the region tournament firing 83 and 84 respectively. Junior Ryan Leigh shot a 90 to finish the Highlands scoring and junior Steven Grimme shot a 100.

"This is my last time. It's nice ending on a sweet note going down to state," Verst said. "Hopefully, we're going to be successful. It's been tough sometimes keeping a positive attitude on the team. But I think we've successfully done it all year."

Richey has played at the Bowling Green Country Club since he was 10. He said the greens are fast. The 18-hole course par is 72.

"It's a good test. You have to find a way to keep the ball in play," Richey said. "If you have to club down to control your ball, then that's what you do. Bowling Green's not a real long course. As long as you play position golf, you can be successful."

Teams can play a practice round Monday starting at 8:30 a.m. with the last start time at 4 p.m. The two-day tournament starts Tuesday. The top 12 teams and 20 individuals will advance to the second day with a minimum of 80 golfers moving on.

"The practice round is really going to tell us how to play the course and where to go on certain holes," Grimme said. "One of the main things he says is to stay away from trouble. So as long as we're playing (the ball) away from water, out of bounds and keeping it in the fairway, it shouldn't be too bad."

Richey played in the state tournament a number of times during his days at Allen County-Scottsville in the early to mid-90s. That will help him relate to the Highlands players to an extent.

"I'll be able to tell them some about how to manage their feelings because I've been there," Richey said. "But for the most part, they'll just have to go play and relax the best they can. Those teams are really, really good. But this is the first time any of these kids have played in the state tournament so I know they're going to be nervous."

Seven teams shot below 300 in the region tournaments. Louisville St. Xavier comes in with the lowest score of 277. The Tigers have won the last three state tournaments and have the most in the state with 21 overall.

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