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A stroke of success

Of all the conditions and factors surrounding the state golf tournament, only one thing matters to Ironton’s Nathan Kerns.

Playing.

Kerns, a junior, will play for the individual medalist championship at the Ohio State University Gray Course Friday and Saturday in the Division II state golf tournament.

Kerns will tee off at 9:18 a.m. in a group with Grant Weaver of Apple Creek Waynedale and Dean Kruschinski of Hamilton Badin.

The weather forecast has a hint of rain and winds are expected to blow throughout the two-day event. That matters little to Kerns.

“The bottom line is it’s the state tournament. Everything else doesn’t matter. Hot, cold, wind, rain. It’s chance to do something special and bring home a state title. None of that other stuff matters at the end,” said Kerns.

Ironton’s head coach Jeff Kerns, who also happens to be Nathan’s father and a former state tournament competitor himself, said Nathan is ready for whatever conditions await.

“He’s used to playing in any kind of weather. It won’t be an excuse. He’s a mudder,” said coach Kerns.

“You have to manage the course. It’s not bad to keep the driver in the bag. You just have to keep (the ball) in play.”

Ironton advanced to the district but failed to qualify for the state tournament as a team. Kerns was the medalist not only at the sectional tournament but the district as well, thus earning a berth in the state tournament as an individual.

Playing as an individual will actually ease some of the pressure off Nathan’s shoulders.

“(Playing on a team) adds a little more pressure because you can’t have an off day. This year I couldn’t have an off day. They needed my leadership and my experience,” Nathan said.

The medalist honors as the sectional and district gave Nathan 14 medalist titles for the season.

“You don’t want to back into (the state tournament). Being medalist at the sectional and district showed he was playing well. It’s been a good last month and a half. He’s right where he wants to be,” said coach Kerns.

Coach Kerns added that he agreed with his son that the pressure of playing in the state tournament pale in comparison to the other tournaments.

“The majority of pressure is in the district. You have to play well there. Once you’re in the dance there’s not a lot of pressure to perform. You just go and play. I think that will keep him relaxed. There’s no more pressure to achieve. That’s when you play your best golf,” said coach Kerns.

A major positive on Nathan’s side is the fact he is playing well heading into the state tournament.

“He started out pretty slow, but about the middle of the year through now he’s played pretty good,” said coach Kerns.

Nathan has been to the state tournament, too. He went with the Ironton team during his freshman year. He plans to rely on that experience and the fact he’s playing the Gray Course.

“I think it helps a lot. Having been there before you don’t have the nervous jitters,” said Nathan. “I like the shorter course. I think it’s an advantage to me to be able to get the wedge in my hands.”

While Nathan is happy with his season and reaching the state tournament, he admits that he won’t be satisfied with just qualifying.

“Once get in high school, making the state is the number one goal. Winning matches and getting medalist are nice, but getting to the state is the main goal. That’s what matters to me,” said Nathan.

“I’ve played well this year. I’m still playing well. I’m hitting the ball well and my putting has always been there. It’s nice to have both of them. It comes in handy.”