VERSAILLES – A year after taking its program to unprecedented levels, the Versailles girls golf team expects to do even better at this season’s state meet.
Versailles returns four golfers from last year’s team, which finished eighth in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state meet – the best finish in program and Midwest Athletic Conference girls golf history. With so much experience returning to Columbus for a second consecutive season, the Lady Tigers think they can exceed the high standards they’ve set.
“I feel like now that we had one year under our belt we can do better this year,” said senior Lauren Heitkamp, the MAC’s girls golfer of the year.
Versailles finished eighth as a team in the 2015 Division II state tournament, shooting a 386 on the first day and a 376 on the second day for a total score of 762. Having that experience should only help the Tigers this time around.
“I think that’s huge for us because we had a couple girls last year who played their best rounds of the entire year at state and they had never seen the course before, they had never been in that atmosphere, and for those people who have been there before they know the type of buzz and the excitement that goes around,” Versailles coach Joe Harrmann said. “It’s kind of like being around a professional type of tournament. Having four girls that have experienced that now that can only help us for sure.”
Already this season Versailles has experienced lots of success and accomplished feats unprecedented in program history. The Tigers won the MAC championship, an OHSAA sectional tournament championship and for the first time in program history won an OHSAA district tournament championship.
“It’s crazy,” Morgan Heitkamp said. “It’s absolutely amazing that we came together as a team, especially at the end of the season, like to accomplish all of this together.”
Entering the district tournament Versailles’ goal simply was to finish in the top three and earn a trip back to Columbus. The Tigers didn’t anticipate winning their first district title.
“I wasn’t expecting all of this success,” Jorja Pothast said. “I was just hoping to do well this year and make it back to state.”
The unexpected success does have the Tigers confident that they can continue to accomplish great things.
“I think it was very unexpected that we won (the district championship),” Lauren Durham said. “We were just hoping to place and get to move on. So I think we’re going to go into state with a lot of confidence.”
This is the fourth time in the past five seasons that Versailles has made it to the state tournament, which speaks volumes about the program and the girls in it.
“I think mostly what it says is we’ve got great girls and families that care about the game of golf and who work hard to learn the game at a younger age, and then they work hard in high school to make sure they’re successful on the course,” Harrmann said. “It’s a best testament to what Coach (Vicky) Olwine built before I got here in getting girls interested in golf and kind of making a name for it. But again you’ve got to give all the credit to the girls. They’re the ones who put in all the hard work and time and take the criticism and critique and advice and everything else to make their games better.”
While Durham, Lauren Heitkamp, Morgan Heitkamp and Pothast all have state tournament experience, Anna Groff is competing at state for the first time. The support of her team has her feeling confident, though.
“It’s nerve-wracking, but I’ve had a lot of support from my teammates, and they’ve helped me through the hard days and the good days,” Groff said. “So I’m feeling pretty confident.”
Alternates Morgan Barlage and Taylor Martin also will make the trip to Columbus with their teammates as the Tigers aim for another record-setting performance.
“I think everybody’s goal obviously is to win a state championship,” Harrmann said. “Hopefully we can do that, but if not hopefully we can shoot personal bests, have the girls shoot personal bests. If they do that I feel like that will be a huge accomplishment. If we do that, then we’re going to move up a couple places as well, I think, on the board. And in addition to that a goal is for them to enjoy the experience because these experiences don’t come around too much.”
Versailles will compete in the Division II state championship, which will be held on Friday and Saturday at The Ohio State University Gray Course in Columbus. The tournament will consist of 18-hole rounds both days with Versailles teeing off at 9:50 a.m. Friday with Milford Center Fairbanks and Waterford.
For more information on the OHSAA state tournament, visit http://ohsaa.org.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.