Fighting Tigers success not measured on golf scoreboard

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2005

The scoreboard didn't reflect what the Ironton Fighting Tigers golf team had accomplished.

Although Ironton finished ninth at the Division II state golf tournament - the team's eighth trip to the finals - coach Jeff Kerns said the team had tremendous success even without winning the championship.

&#8220We were disappointed that we didn't play better. We knew we were capable of shooting a better score, but we finished ninth out of 239 teams, not ninth out of 12,” Kerns said.

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&#8220It was an awesome experience. They'll never forget it.”

Only 12 teams qualify for the state tournament.

&#8220The kids on this team are all friends and competitors. They made each other better. We put a lot of work into it and it was very rewarding.”

Ironton had a final record of 87-14. Kerns said the team set a goal of making the state tournament and believed from the first day there was nothing that was going to stop them.

&#8220At the beginning, if I thought we'd make it to the state, I would have considered the season a success. The kids worked hard all year, not just during the season. We began preparing the day after last year's tournament ended,” Kerns said of his players' own offseason practices.

The Fighting Tigers shot a 324 the first day and were in eighth place, 13 shots off the pace. But 20-30 mile an hour winds the second day played havoc with their shots and they posted an uncharacteristic 333 score for a 657 two-day total at the Foxfire Golf Course.

&#8220It affected us some. We shot nine shots higher than the first day, but I think it effected us mentally more than it did our shots. We're not used to playing in that kind of weather, so it makes it harder to adjust. It made our shots run faster on the greens. It magnifies everything,” Kerns said.

Seth Christian, a junior who played in the state tournament his sophomore year as an individual qualifier, tied for ninth overall and was second team All-Ohio with a 156 total (77-79).

&#8220Seth played well. All in all, our kids didn't play bad. We didn't have our ‘A' games. The course played long, the greens were big and fast, the rough was high. We didn't play ourselves out of the tournament the first day. I felt we were one of the best teams there. We were just as talented as the rest of the teams,” Kerns said.

Dennis Gagai rebounded from an 87 the first day to shoot 79 the second day and finish at 166. Nathan Kerns, the only freshman on the team, shot an 83-85 for a 168 total. Gavin Harbolt was 83-90 for 173 and Jay Rudmann, second on the team the first day with an 81, shot a 97 in the wind and closed with a 178 total.

&#8220(Rudmann) kept us in the tournament on the first day. Jay, Kevin and Nathan kept us in the tournament. That was a very good round for Jay. And an 83 the first day out of a freshman, I can't ask for any more than that,” coach Kerns said.

Gagai, Rudmann and Harbolt are all seniors and coach Kerns said the group will be missed.

&#8220In a way, they understood we were very senior heavy. They knew they had one shot with this group of guys to go in and make it happen. They just threw it on their shoulders and said they were going to do it,” coach Kerns said.

&#8220They've been a big part of my life. They've been very special to me. We'll definitely miss them. They were easy to coach. I enjoyed having


Kerns added that the team's success was a joint effort that went beyond the players.

&#8220I would like to thank the parents of the golfers and the community and city schools for the signs they made for us as we went to the state tournament and all their support,” Kerns said. &#8220And I want to add a special thanks to (assistant) coach Tony Brown for all his help. He's been a great asset to this team for the past 13 years.”