|HHSBlueBirdies Twitter Photo. Highlands freshman JD Gabbard prepares for the second day of the state golf tournament Wednesday. Gabbard shot a 76 for a two-day total of 150 good for a tie for 20th in the state tournament.|
Gabbard shot a 76 good for four over par at the state golf tournament at Bowling Green Country Club on Friday. That made a two-day total of 150 strokes good for a four-way tie for 20th in the tournament.
"JD had a good day so it should show him that when he plays well and smart that he's as good as the rest of the golfers in the state," said Bert Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "He was a little more aggressive (Wednesday). He made more birdies (one over par). That gave him a chance to get a good score and he did. Tied for 20th in the state, I don't care if you're a freshman, a senior or anything. That's really good."
Parker Harris, a 2015 Highlands graduate, qualified for the state tournament individually from 2012 to 2014. He made the second day as a senior and tied for 50th. The top 12 scores and 20 individuals not on those teams made the second day.
"I think I wasn't as nervous going into (Wednesday) because I knew if I played aggressive like I did (Tuesday), I trust my game well enough that I can shoot well," Gabbard said. "It just depends on how hard we work in the off-season. I think we have a good chance to make it to state again. We know we have the talent. We just need to work as hard as we can."
Highlands made the state tournament as a team for the first time since 2010 finishing second in the 8th Region behind Grant County. The 2010 team won the region.
None of the current players had played in the state tournament. But four of the top five players return next year and gained this valuable experience. The Bluebirds tied for 17th out of 24 teams on the first day so they did not make it to the second day.
"I think experience is the key to most of our success," Richey said. "(You get) more to draw on in situations because you've been there before. Nerves were a factor because they hadn't been there before. Next year, it'll be something they've already experienced if we're fortunate to make it back."
Aside from Gabbard, the Bluebirds will return freshman Luke Muller and juniors Ryan Leigh and Steven Grimme next year. Junior Brady Walz and seventh-grader Joel Craft could challenge for tournament time as well.
"I didn't play very smart. I got myself in very bad positions," Muller said. "But I think in the next couple years, I'm going to know where to hit the ball and how to play the course better."
Highlands graduates two seniors from this year's team. They are Aaron Verst and Jackson Recht.