Strokes of success: Cats defend, Rangers joinSeptember 23, 2013
By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer
JASPER — About 30 minutes after Steve Milligan announced the results of Saturday’s girls golf sectional, he suddenly remembered something he needed to tell his team. At that point, only golfers and the families of the Jasper golf team remained, milling around the clubhouse after the Wildcats’ second straight sectional title.
“That was...,” Milligan started and then paused, thinking for a moment, “at least my 900th victory today. I don’t know. It’s 902 or 903 today.”
“Or 904,” he concluded.
Although with that many career wins, who’s counting?
Milligan can be excused if he didn’t remember the exact number right then, especially after his Jasper team grabbed the sectional trophy for the fifth time in the last six years, 44 strokes ahead of second-place Gibson Southern (386). Wildcat golfers posted the top three individual scores of the day.
Forest Park (440) finished third overall, earning its first-ever trip to Saturday’s regional at Country Oaks Golf Club in Montgomery. Southridge (514) and Heritage Hills (552) placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in the nine-team field.
Always thinking of his team first, Milligan had known about the approaching landmark for the last few week, but delayed telling his team to avoid adding any extra pressure to an already weighted weekend. That doesn’t mean the news didn’t almost leak out prematurely, though.
“He was about to tell us on the bus the other day,” senior Annie Getzin said. “But then our team manager was like, ”˜No, don’t do that. Don’t do that.”
Getzin, who continued her stellar season by tucking away sectional medalist honors with a 76, had glowing praises for her coach and role model.
“Steve is unbelievable. He is definitely one of my role models, especially because of what he’s been through these past few years,” she said referring to Milligan’s diagnosis and battle with cancer; he’s been in remission for a year and a half. “He is a constant. If you shoot, good, bad, ugly or beautiful, he’s going to be there no matter what. If he’s disappointed in you, then that’s good because it’s going to push you because you don’t want to disappoint him.”
After Getzin, Annika Harmon finished second at 80 and Sarah Ackerman placed third with an 87. Catherine Bell (99) and Madeline Hurst (100) scored the sixth- and seventh-best scores in the field. Getzin attributes the team’s string of dominance at the sectional to a strong intrasquad competition. And success tends to breed success.
“I think it’s partly because we are successful each year,” Getzin said. “Kids want to get up and they want to do that, too. They realize, ”˜Whoa, there’s an opportunity right there.’ Competition within the team makes each other better. Maybe there are three people competing for the bottom two spots. You know that’s what makes them better. They go, ”˜I want to play in regionals.’ So they’re going to practice. It’s a healthy competition.”
The accomplishments were not confined to only the Wildcats. Forest Park’s third-place finish gave the Rangers their first regional berth in program history. Jordan Buechler paced the Rangers at 101 and Amie Weyer followed close behind with a 104. The team, which returned all five golfers from a sixth-place finish a year ago and has six seniors on the roster, is an experienced group that’s learned to roll with the ups and downs of golf. That may not have been more evident in the Rangers’ response after the first three holes in which the five golfers produced 14 bogeys.
“Really, our first three holes of the day, for every golfer, we struggled,” Ranger coach Bryce Morrison said. “And I think it was the fact that they’ve been there, done that. Last year, we didn’t recover. We kind of just kept going and we didn’t recover. And I think that played a big factor. ... Eighteen holes is a marathon, not a sprint. I told them, ”˜Anyone could have a good nine holes, but 18 holes — water finds its level.’ If you’re shooting bad on the front than you’re probably bound to shoot a lot better on the back.”
That was exactly the case for senior Brie Englert, whose 114 was a 15-stroke drop from her last score at Muni in August. At the turn, and heading into the dreaded Muni back nine, Englert sat with a solid 60. On the second nine? The more difficult part of the course? A 54. She credits fixing a hitch in her swing to the improvement, but now is focused on more pressing issues.
“I’m pretty excited,” Englert said on the third-place finish. “At Forest Park, we have banners (for sectionals) and I’m pretty sure we’re going to be on there now. So it’s kind of exciting to be the first people.”
The season wrapped up for two other local teams, including Southridge, as consistent senior Taylor Seufert paced the Raiders with a 117. She’ll be gone next year, but in a season in which the Raiders returned no sectional golfers from the year before, the experience added is crucial.
“I think they handled (the atmosphere) well,” coach Phil Olinger said. “I think a lot of them played smart, and that lends itself to a good score for golf.
“We were able to improve until the end. And by the end of the year, we were able to win several matches, so that was a real highlight for us.”
For Heritage Hills, just competing in the sectional proved to a big step for a program that played only one golfer, Eryn Jochim, in 2012. A year later, Jochim was relieved to have some backup and support on the course this time.
“It was kind of fun knowing that I wasn’t the only one for my team and that I had other teammates just to back me up,” Jochim said.
Dallas Buse shot a team-high 115 for the Patriots. Coach Dave Jochim said the next step for the team is continued improvement through practice during the long offseason.
“They’ve just got to get out there on their own,” coach Jochim said. “Even if you shoot a double-bogey on every hole (at Muni) you’re going to shoot a (107). I mean, 110 made it out this year (individually).”
As the teams slowly filtered out, Milligan sat at a picnic table chatting amicably with his players and their parents. Nine hundred wins and not quite finished yet.
“We didn’t know what to expect this year,” he said. “That’s just another accomplishment they’ve had. I always say we go through stages. Stage One is to win the Big Eight. Stage Two is to win the sectional. And we’ve got a couple more stages to do before the season’s going to end.”
Contact Joseph Fanelliat firstname.lastname@example.org
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