Kerns’ player of year honor leads Ironton district awards

Published 1:36 am Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It was a great season for the Ironton Fighting Tigers golf team. The offseason has been pretty good, too.

Ironton reaped the rewards of a great season with three players and their coach being honored by the Southeast District Golf Coaches Association who made their all-star selections during their annual meeting on Sunday.

Senior Nathan Kerns was selected the Southeast District Player of the Year for the second straight year, sophomore Andy Holtzapfel was a second team selection, and freshman Josh Zornes was honorable mention.

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Ironton’s Jeff Kerns was voted the district Coach of the Year.

The awards added to the previous All-Southeastern Ohio Athletic League honors earned by Kerns and Holtzapfel as Ironton won its first-ever conference golf title.

“I wouldn’t go back and change anything,” Nathan Kerns said of his stellar season that ended with a seventh place finish in the Division II state tournament to earn him All-Ohio honors.

“There was that one goal to go back and win the state (tournament) as a team we didn’t get. Personally, placing seventh in the state was the most memorable. That’s the biggest thing out there for high school golf.”

The Fighting Tigers won the sectional tournament and finished fourth in the district to just miss a trip to the state tournament. Holtzapfel said team expectations added more pressure than his rookie season.

“I had a little more pressure and I didn’t play as well as I thought I could,” said Holtzapfel who was All-SEOAL for the second year in a row. “The experience I got last year helped out. I hit my irons a lot better. My chipping wasn’t as good compared to last year, but I hit the ball off the tee the same and my putting was about the same.”

Holtzapfel, who played as Ironton’s No. 2 man behind Kerns, was pleased with the team’s accomplishments.

“I was pretty happy with how far we went and winning the SEOAL and winning the sectional,” said Holtzapfel.

Zornes had the most unique story of the trio. The freshman had not played golf until last summer. As the year unfolded, it was hard to tell he wasn’t a serious golfer until now.

“I thought may I would try to make the varsity and be the four or five man.I practiced all summer and that helped a lot,” said Zornes. “I was very surprised by what I did. I have greater expectations of what I can do now.”

Known as Zorro to his teammates, Zornes said he just tried to keep his scores in a range that would help the team.

“I just tried to shoot in the low 80s or 70s. I did well and I just kept going and got better and better,” said Zornes.

Nathan Kerns praised his teammates.

“Zorro had a very, very incredible year as a freshman. I remember a guy stepping into a team like this with the same amount of talent four years ago,” Nathan Kerns said with a grin thinking back to his freshman season.

“He has more capabilities than me as a freshman.

“Andy may not have had the year he wanted, but he learned more about his character on the course and that may have been a better lesson for him. He can be a leader next year.”

Coach Kerns had nothing but good words for his players.

“I’m proud of their accomplishments,” said coach Kerns. “These awards are voted on by the Southeast district coaches. I nominated the players, but the coaches vote for these awards. To have three of my players make all-district is a great honor for me because it validates what we’re doing in our golf program.”

Nathan, son of the head coach, gave a lot of credit to his father for the team’s success.

“All four years have been the same. It’s been good. It’s not been a bad thing,” said Nathan. “I didn’t have the year I wanted. My expectations were higher, but I was coached well. It took a lot of coach-to-player and coach-to-son talks, but it worked out all right.”

Coach Kerns deflected the praise as well as his award as the district’s top coach.

“The award is very humbling because the people who voted for that were my colleagues. We play against them match after match. I don’t hit the shots for them. I didn’t do anything. They make me look good,” said coach Kerns.

“I hope these guys had their eyes open and ears open and soaked in all they could. Nate was not only a great playes, but a great leader and a great teacher. If they follow the things he laid in front of them, they’ll be okay.”