VERSAILLES – For Niccole Keiser, being back at Versailles High School is the answer to her many questions.
The 1998 graduate had always wanted to teach and coach and both of those positions will be hers this school year. Keiser was named back in late June as the new girls golf coach and when school begins this fall, she will be a substitute teacher for the district.
“I wasn’t going to apply for the coaching position at first,” said Keiser, who worked in the school cafeteria last year. “But several people encouraged me to apply including Joe Harrmann (former girls golf coach) so I did and I got the job.
“It was always something I thought about doing,” she continued. “I went to college for teaching and that goes hand-in-h and with coaching in helping educate the next generation. I guess it was just being in the right place at the right time. I don’t know if I had not been working in the cafeteria already if I would have heard about the position.”
Keiser said golf was “definitely” her favorite of all the sports she played from 1994-98 at Versailles. She nine varsity letters while playing four years of varsity golf, three years of varsity softball and one year each of varsity basketball and track.
“I lived on the golf course when I was growing up,” Keiser said literally, not figuratively. Her parents still live in the same house just behind the 16th hole at Stillwater Valley Golf Club. “I worked out here too so I was here all the time. I grew up out here.
“I even had the 9-hole course record for the front side at 2-under-par for a long time, but I’m not sure if I do anymore,” she added.
Though Keiser never made it to the state tournament when she played for the Tigers, the girls team has done well in recent memory including placing 10th in the team standings just last year at the Division II state tournament. Versailles also placed eighth in the state tournament in 2016, eighth in 2015, ninth in 2013 and 12th in 2012.
Though four girls graduated from last year’s state-qualifying group, Keiser says she has five returning players including two seniors, Morgan Heitkamp and Morgan Barlage. The other six players on the 2018 team will be three sophomores (Kayla Batten, Maddie Durham and Alexis Jay) and three freshman (Courtney Hecht, Hayley Dirksen and Lindsay Cotner.
“The upperclassmen are really helping the younger players with things like course management,” Keiser said. “The seniors are great leaders. Morgan and Morgan know their way around the golf course and we will be leaning on the sophomores to come through for us.
“We definitely would like to get back to state,” she continued. “And these girls are good enough to do it, but golf is such a mental game. It can take you down quicker than anything else. My goals for this team also include getting a good system in place. I am getting a lot of feedback from our five returning players on how things were last year and what I’m trying to do this year.”
The game has changed somewhat since Keiser played at Versailles. For one, she said the girls are playing from the black tees instead of the white tees at Stillwater Valley.
“That changes the course completely,” Keiser said. That change alone adds 638 more yards for 18 holes, according to the yardage listed on a scorecard. “I also have to refresh myself with all the rules. There is also a lot of training to be a coach. More than I expected there would be.
“I am really enjoying being out here and getting to know the girls though,” she continued. “It’s been a lot of fun. And with three sophomores and three freshmen, we are looking pretty strong for a couple of years. That’s exciting.”
The Versailles girls golf season kicks off Monday, Aug. 6 when they travel to the Covington Invitational at Echo Hills Golf Course. Their first home match will be Thursday, Aug. 9 when they host the Lady Tiger Invitational at Stillwater Valley Golf Club.
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.