Photo by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Rylan Cox is the lone senior golfer for Heritage Hills this year.
By COREY STOLZENBACH
LINCOLN CITY — Some locals speculate whether schools in Indiana will return to session on May 1 following the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Heritage Hills boys golf coach Greg Deller, however, fancies himself as an optimist, both on this issue and in general. The Indiana High School Athletic Association narrowing the required practices from 10 to five is no problem for him either. Heritage Hills should be ready to go as long as it gets those practices in, weather permitting.
“It’s going to take more than five practices to shake the rust off,” Deller said. “It’s good in the sense that we can go ahead, get practice in and go ahead and start getting the matches. That’s really what it’s all about. Obviously, we need practice more than we get, but it’s all about the matches and going out and competing and having fun.”
However, even an optimist like the second-year coach admits that the Patriots have a challenge ahead of them because of the turnover they’re dealing with from last year. They lost Josh Nelson, Carter Cox, Mitch Blasdel and Aidian Rea to graduation. Nelson and Cox both earned All-Pocket Athletic Conference honors in 2019. Nelson, Cox and Blasdel all made it into the top five both at sectionals and regional last year.
“Those were all good guys that any one of those guys could step up at any time and be the low scorer at any time,” he said. “Those were good teammates. It’s going to be a struggle.”
The Pats wonder how their top five will look this year in the wake of those graduations. Deller sees sophomore Owen Vinson making his way into the team’s top three this year given the work he put in after his freshman year ended. Heritage Hills will have to rely on its junior class in order to help make that possible. The second-year coach touted Logan Hockenberry and Trenton Hill as two of those candidates. Jordan Mitchell, Gavin Daunhauer and Jacob Smith all have potential as well to break into the top five.
It remains to be seen what those juniors have done with working on their game, but Deller noted that his fourth through eighth spots could be open, and any of them could fill in at a given time. He feels the Pats have solid depth. It’s just a question of what kind of scores they’re going to generate.
Heritage Hills has questions surrounding who will round out the top five, but the Pats are returning a top-heavy team. Rylan Cox is the team’s lone senior, and was the co-medalist at last year’s PAC meet. He was top five at sectionals and co-led his team at last year’s regional meet. Deller expects that Cox will be a good senior leader for the team.
“He’s started all four years,” he said. “He’s been around it and he’s seen different leaders throughout his four years. He’ll be able to adjust to that. He shouldn’t have any problem. He’ll step right into that role very well.”
Deller has talked with assistant coach Tom Nelson. The two of them anticipate Cox will play more freely and put less pressure on himself this year, which they hope will lead to big things at regionals.
Then there’s sophomore Ethan Kane, who burst onto the scene last year as a freshman to be an all-conference golfer, his team’s leading scorer at sectionals and co-led with Rylan at regionals. Deller touted how well Kane knows the game, and that he’s hard on himself because he expects himself to do well. He expects big things out of his sophomore golfer, seeing the potential that both Cox and Kane could make it to state this year.
“If he can keep his head in the game and if his game has grown, he has the potential,” Deller said of Kane. “Rylan, this being his fourth year, he’s seen it all. They’ve advanced to the regionals. So, he’s seen it.”
Cox, Kane and the rest of the Pats will try to win a 12th consecutive PAC championship. Deller preaches never giving up, and that golfers could have pars and birdies after dealing with bogeys earlier in their outing. He added that anybody can step up in a given golf match, and that his golfers have teammates to lean on if it isn’t their best day.
It would take that full team effort from every teammate, not just Cox and Kane, if they want to pry away that sectional championship from Jasper. Deller knows what those two are capable of. Vinson and some of his juniors chipping in low scores would help as well.
Deller has the optimism that the whole team can return to regionals this year, but he’s hoping they’ll have worked on their game during this hiatus since conference and sectionals will be emerging quickly following the missed matches.
“You just have to be mentally prepared,” he said. “It’s going to be a sprint, and not a marathon, and we have to be ready now.”