By Gary R. Rasberry
The Grand Lake will be represented by two teams this week at the Division II and III boys state golf tournament held on the Scarlet and Gray Courses on the campus of The Ohio State University.
For the Minster Wildcats, it's a return trip to state in Division III after finishing fourth last year at Foxfire -- where the tournament was held due to the Ohio State courses being redesigned.
For the St. Marys Roughriders, it's a chance to go to state for the first time, a thought that the team has been enjoying since placing second at the Division II district last week at Sycamore Springs.
Wildcats looking for higher placement
After finishing a respectable fourth last season, the Wildcats have the confidence to compete with the elite when they head for the Gray Course. It helps that the Wildcats come in winning their last three tournaments, the Midwest Athletic Conference tournament as well as the sectional and district titles.
"Last year we were kind of an underdog," said senior Evan Lee. "This year we're one of the favored ones to win. That feels good."
"It's not more nerves, it's excitement if anything," said senior Jimmy Stechschulte, who was an All-Ohioan last year after shooting a 162. "The seniors just want to go out there and want to win. It's not nerves, it's just you want to play the best you can."
Stechschulte and Lee are the only two Wildcats that played last season on the state-qualifying team. Classmate Tony Weaver was the alternate last year and gets a chance to compete at state this season.
"I really didn't get to play last year. It will be a whole lot better this year (actually playing)," said Weaver. "We're trying to do a little better than last year. Definitely want to give ourselves the opportunity of winning on the second day."
Senior Brad Borchers gets his chance to play at state, something sister Michelle did several times while playing for the Lady Wildcats, who will have a chance to play for a state berth this week at Districts.
"I got a lot of experience last year just watching, knowing how to hold yourself," said Borchers. I've watched three state tournaments so far."
Freshman Ben Hogenkamp is the lone non-senior on the starting five and he's happy to get that chance to play.
"It feels pretty good," said Hogenkamp. "Hopefully we can pull out the win this year. It'll make it feel even better."
"We're playing for that black flag up in the gym," said Lee, referring to the banner that goes up in the gym for every state championship.
Roughriders enjoying the glow
For a school known for its football, St. Marys has certainly embraced the Roughrider golf team after they earned the first-ever trip to state thanks to a second-place finish last week at Sycamore Springs.
"It's awesome," said sophomore Adam Kuffner. "You think about all the guys who (played golf at St. Marys) in 39 years. We're the first team to (go to state). Pretty amazing. It's going to be fun.
"We were really happy, especially our moms. They were going crazy."
With just two teams making it out of districts in this area, the St. Marys group had to wait a bit to find out what their fate would be.
"It was pretty overwhelming when we actually found out," said senior Alex Spencer. "Sitting there waiting for Bryan's (Bryan High School) scores to come in, once they posted it, we were ecstatic.
"It's a great accomplishment. The whole team banded together. We're just really excited. I never been to state in any other sport. It's pretty great being the first."
Spencer and classmate Trent Paulus are the seniors on a balanced group heading to Columbus as juniors Michael Schmitmeyer and Jason Rader are joined by sophomore Kuffner.
The Roughriders have had one of their best seasons ever in golf as the team had a solid Western Buckeye League season at 6-3 and finished fourth in the league overall. WBL champ Bath, the defending Division II state champs, are also heading to the Scarlet Course.
"It's been a great season. We have over 40 more wins than we had last season," said Spencer. "Trent against Elida hit an amazing putt to force a tie (which St. Marys won via the fifth golfer score). There's other matches where other players have made their strokes."
"We worked a lot harder in Lima Junior Tournaments and played a lot in the summer," said Kuffner. "Nobody expected us to do anything in the WBL. We were flying under the radar and came close to beating some good teams in a lot of tournaments."
As for goals, the Roughriders want to do more than just show up.
"My personal goal is to play to my potential and shoot the best I can," said Rader. "Team goal is to hopefully place."