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On a yearly basis, golf coaches talk about preparation for one day each year.
That is the region tournament. The Highlands Bluebirds boys golf team has made a habit of excelling on that day in recent years capturing a third region championship in four years at the Henry County Country Club on Tuesday.
Highlands shot a 317 to bring it home. The Bluebirds also won it last year and in 2018 with scores of 323 and 293 respectively. The Bluebirds finished sixth in the state tournament last year and eighth in 2018.
Highlands Head Coach Bert Richey said he expected the Bluebirds to be in this position despite graduating two NCAA Division I golfers from the 2020 squad. Luke Muller took his talents to Northern Kentucky University and Justin Gabbard is golfing at Xavier University.
"We got off to a rough start. But as we talked about before we went, it was 18 one-hole battles and the kids did a good job of staying in and making sure they played the whole round without giving up," Richey said. "We were way behind at the start. We played a fantastic back nine. The kids did a good job of following their game plans they set up. We played a lot of practice rounds (at Henry County Country Club) so they knew they played the back nine really well. They just had to stay in there on the front nine and they did."
Highlands has qualified for state in four of the last five seasons finishing region runner-up in 2017. But only the 12 region winners currently qualify for state as a team.
Highlands junior Joel Craft has golfed on all three teams. He earned medalist honors in this one shooting an even par 72.
"It feels good. I struck the ball really well," Craft said. "I honestly made a couple silly errors that made the score higher than it should have been. But I got the win. The team did what we needed to do. We knew we probably had to at least break 320 to win. I'm just happy for the team we were able to get it done."
Freshman Hank Shick and senior Jack Schneider also golfed on the state tournament team last year. Shick shot 77 to take fifth overall and Schneider shot 80 shooting one-under on the back nine.
"Repeating as region champs is that much more impressive for our team because we had to start from scratch," Schneider said. "We just kind of scrambled our way to the top. We stuck together. Nobody ever gave up on the round."
Freshmen Nate Surrey and Oliver Golden participated in their first region tournaments. Surrey shot an 88 to round out the Highlands scoring and Golden shot 90.
"I think it was really about staying in the game," Surrey said. "I had one really bad hole. I had to keep focus and know that I can play better. Jack and Joel have always been real good to me. We've always played and had a good time up at the (Highland) Country Club. At tournaments, they're always real nice to me, Oliver and all the freshmen. Their just really good leaders on the team."
Richey said the par three holes and the 18th hole are extremely tough in Henry County. Richey also said the greens are fast and the wind played a factor.
"Our kids did a good job of making sure they kept the ball below the hole on the (18th hole) so we gained a lot of shots on the field by keeping the ball below the hole," Richey said. "The harder the conditions is probably better for us because our kids are real tactical. They're smart when they play."
The state tournament runs Oct. 4 through 10 at the Bowling Green Country Club.