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Monday, October 4, 2021

Highlands Golfers Head to State Tournament

Bluebirds Prepare for Bermuda Grass Course

PHOTO: Jenna Richey. Highlands freshman Hank Shick will be playing in his second state golf tournament starting Friday.

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For some of the Highlands Bluebirds golfers, this week will mark the first time they've participated in the state tournament at the Bowling Green Country Club.

But for others, it will be their second or third time and possibly their last time in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association level. Highlands Boys Head Coach Bert Richey has taken a number of players to state over the years and has noticed a huge common denominator. The Highlands boys won their third 8th Region Tournament in four years last week.  

"We talked about it when we went out to eat (after winning region), the first time there is intimidating," Richey said. "Everybody including some of the greatest players this school has ever had. Their first trip to that course didn't go very well."

The girls state tournament tees off Tuesday. Highlands senior KJ Toole qualified for state for the third year in a row finishing fourth in the 8th Region Tournament shooting an 85 last week. She tees off at 12:39 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the first hole.

Toole qualified for the second day last year after not making it to the second day two years ago. She shot an 84 on the first day last year before shooting 88 on the second day for a two-day total of 172 good for 58th at state. She hopes to improve on those scores this year.

"My putting was looking really solid so I'm hoping to keep up some good putting," Toole said. "I did well with my drives off the tee. I'm just really looking to hit those greens on my approach shots. That's the big thing."

The boys state tournament begins Friday. All five Highlands golfers tee off on the 10th hole between 8:45 a.m. and 9:21 a.m.

This marks the third state tournament for Highlands junior Joel Craft and the second ones for senior Jack Schneider and freshman Hank Shick. The trio helped Highlands to a school record sixth-place finish at state last year with a score of 661.

Craft helped the Bluebirds finish eighth in the state tournament as an eighth grader in 2018. That team shot a two-day total of 644 that year. Craft shot a two-day total of 186 that year. He improved to 169 last year.

Schneider shot a two-day total of 173 at the state tournament last year and Shick shot 97s both days for a total of 194. But Shick's scores have dropped a lot this year. Shick said an improved short game is the key.

"This will be my fifth time playing the course," Shick said of the BG Country Club. "I've gotten to know it pretty well so hopefully, I can do well and place high. Last year definitely helped me so I won't be as nervous and be ready to go. You're using your putter for half your strokes. If you can putt well, your scores are going to drop for sure."

Two freshmen in Nate Surrey and Oliver Golden will make their first appearance in the state tournament. But Richey said the team will go down their working on a strategy to keep the ball in the fairways in order to manage their scores and not take penalty shots.

Richey said the biggest challenge for the course is playing on Bermuda grass. He said that kind of grass is not seen north of Elizabethtown.

"Bermuda grass really grabs your club. It's really wiry," Richey said. "So if you hit it in the rough, it's really hard to get it out of and have it spin on the ball when it hits the green. You have to manage your ball when if you're in the rough, you hit it short of the green. Other players that try to hit it on the green, it's going to hit and bounce over. If you go over the greens in Bowling Green, it's trouble because the greens are slow from back to front."

Golden said he's golfed on Bermuda grass before. Highlands did not make it down to Bowling Green this year unlike last year.

"I'm just trying to follow the course notes and how (Coach Richey) said to play the course," Golden said. "I'm doing my best to stick to the game plan."

Richey said the Christian Academy of Louisville Centurions and the Madison Central Indians are the teams to beat. He also noted the Greenwood Gators could sneak up on teams because the BG Country Club is its home course. CAL is led by senior Oklahoma University commit Matthew Troutman.

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