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Ironton’s Kerns 7th at state tournament

Throughout his life, Nathan Kerns has had a lot of father-son talks. This time the talk was more coach-player.

After shooting a 77 on Friday at the Division II state golf tournament and sitting in third place, Kerns did not begin Saturday’s second round on the Ohio State University Scarlet Course very well.

A double bogey on No. 2 and a triple bogey on No. 4 left him five over. That’s when his father and Ironton head coach Jeff Kerns stepped in.

“Dad and I had a chat and I had three straight pars. That got me settled down. Other than a double bogey on 14, I played pretty solid on the way in,” said Nathan Kerns.

The solid play allowed Kerns to shoot an 80 for a 157 two-day total and enabled him to finish off a stellar career with a seventh place finish at the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state championship tournament.

By placing in the top 10, Kerns earned second team All-Ohio honors. Jeff Kerns finished fourth in the state tournament his senior season 20 years ago.

“That’s pretty incredible. I feel honored to be in the same category as he is. It’s been really fun and I’ve had a great time. I’ve had all I wanted in high school and more,” said Nathan.

Coach Kerns was proud of the effort Nathan exhibited after the rough start on a course that features extremely difficult greens.

“Putting is one of Nate’s strongest features of his game. If you can’t putt on that golf course, it will destroy you,” said coach Kerns.

“He battled back and showed a lot of character and pulled it out. How he started his round and how he finished shows his heart. He’s never quit one time. When he’s not hitting it well, he just stays in there and battles.”

Nathan rated his play on Saturday as C-plus, but he was pleased with the outcome.

“It was a struggle all day. I’m proud I held it together. I feel a golf course is more a mental test than physical. I know you have to have some physical skills, but you have to have a mental game. You have to understand you’re going to have a bogey. If you don’t, you have no chance on that course,” said Nathan.

“But I hit the ball pretty well. I hit the driver well. The greens were rolling really fast, but other than a couple of putts, I putted really well.”

It marks the second straight year Nathan has qualified for the state tournament as an individual. He finished 14th last season.

He also played in the state tournament at Foxfire Golf Course as a freshman when Ironton qualified as a team. He said his past experience helped.

“I went in with the mind set I could complete with them. They’ve had more spotlight on them maybe, but I felt my game could hold up with any of them. Sometimes I like being the underdog,” said Nathan.

Coach Kerns said his son’s accomplishment was “a great honor.”

“I’m just happy for him that he could finish the tournament and come out with (being All-Ohio),” said coach Kerns.

“There are 237 programs in Ohio in Division II or roughly 1,200 golfers. To come down and be among the top 10, that’s quite an accomplishment.”

“This means more to me right now to see him be successful.”

Nathan had hoped the Ironton team would qualify but the Fighting Tigers were fourth in the district.

But Nathan, the lone senior, predicted next year would be successful even without him.

“I want everyone to keep an eye on the team next year. If they get a couple of guys who step up, they can be as strong as they were this year,” said Nathan.

“They were rolling really fast, other than couple putts, I putted really well other than a couple of holes.”

Hunting Valley University School won the Div. II team championship. Sugarcreek Garaway won the Div. III title.