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Tigers look to continue surprise run

Brad Washburn teed up his first shot in the season’s initial tournament, swung, and then watched the flight of the ball.

Wednesday, October 13, 1999

Brad Washburn teed up his first shot in the season’s initial tournament, swung, and then watched the flight of the ball. But as the ball came to rest, he wasn’t thinking about his next shot. Instead, he was thinking even further ahead.

Way further.

"When I hit my first shot this year, I thought, ‘It would be cool to see Ironton back playing at Scarlet. They know we’ve been there, but to be back this year would really be something," said Washburn, the only senior on the Ironton Fighting Tigers golf team.

Those are not longer just thoughts. Ironton is back at Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course in one of the most amazing season’s in the school’s impressive golf history. The Fighting Tigers will tee-off in the Division II state tournament this Friday and Saturday in a quest for a fourth state title.

Ironton lost four starters – all are playing at the college level this year – from last season’s state runners-up team. Several of them were part of the three straight state championships. So to expect another state tournament appearance was thought to be nearly impossible. So much for predictions. Ironton was second by five strokes in the sectional, then won the district tournament for the fifth straight year.

"I’m proud of our past accomplishments and state championships, but I think this team has been the most gratifying because they weren’t supposed to win," said coach Bill Washburn whose son Brad is the team’s No. 1 player.

As the season continued, so did Ironton’s progress. Although they were winning or near the top of the leader board in each tournament, the scores kept getting better with each swing.

"I think we’ve overcome everyone’s expectations," junior T. J. Parnell said."I think we have a good shot at winning because of our scores at Champions (tournament). We’re all pretty excited to be back there. It’s a little more nerve-racking, but it’s a little more fun because we’re not expected to win."

Ironton finished just six strokes back of Kettering Alter at the Champions tournament. Alter, the defending state champions, are the pre-tournament favorites once again.

"I expected to be here (at the state tournament), but I didn’t expect to put up the numbers that we . Alter has a lot of experience and they’re going to be the main team to beat, but if we play good, we can," junior Bo McGinnis said.

"At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I would. I hit the ball better in the sectional and district."

And such is the feeling among the team. Despite its youth and inexperience, the Fighting Tigers are loose and anxious to play.

"I’m not nervous. We have nothing to prove. The pressure isn’t on us. We’re pretty confident," sophomore Andy Brown said. "We have to play pretty well. If we do, we have a good shot of winning."

Junior Adam Rudmann, Ironton’s No. 2 player, said there is some pressure, but he thinks it will all subside by the time the first swing is history.

"I feel some pressure (as the number two player). If the one and two guys don’t play well, you have to depend on everyone else to pick you up," Rudmann said. "Right now I’m feeling calm. We’ve played in some big tournament and I think we’ll be prepared for it. We have a lot of potential, we just haven’t shown it all the time."

With previous state tournament experience, Brad Washburn has been trying to prepare his teammates. He said Thursday’s practice round should be a big help.

"Everyone on the team has watched (the state tournament) at least twice and walked the course, so they’ve seen it four times. They just haven’t played it. My dad and I tell them what they have to do and how to hit the shot on each hole. They’ll be practicing it in their heads and then they’ll get to play it Thursday. I’ve played it nine times, so I think I know the course pretty well," Brad Washburn said.

Sophomore Zack Christian, probably the most improved player on the team from start to finish, has a pipeline to his own personal experienced player. Todd Christian, now playing at Eastern Kentucky, played in the past two state tournaments.

"Todd’s helped me a lot. I got to walk around with him and he’s showed me how to do things and showed my a lot about the course. He’s called me and told me what to do and what not to do," Christian said.

"We’ve all come together as a team. I feel we have a better chance as a team than as individuals. I feel pretty confident going against (Alter). I don’t feel they’re better than us. I think of us as a team and not as individuals."

No matter what the team’s finish in the state tournament standings, Brad Washburn has been impressed at the success of his teammates.

"They’ve done pretty well. They’re not rookies, but in a way they are. This is the first year they’ve played in varsity tournaments. They’ve come a long way. I’m really proud of them," Washburn said.

"We have four new guys and we’ve given it our best shot. We just can’t give up. We have to keep our heads in there. they’re beginning to believe they can play with these guys (at the state level). But no matter what happens, we have nothing to be ashamed of."

Ironton’s schedule will have McGinnis teeing off at 8:30 a.m. Friday followed by Brown at 8:38, Christian at 8:46, Rudmann at 8:54, and Washburn at 9:02.