Pat Heitz was met with high expectations when he took over as the boys golf coach at Ballard High School before this season.
They just happened to come from his son, Kevin, who had coached the Bruins the previous two seasons.
“He left to become a policeman in Savannah, Ga., and he told me he was handing over a state-championship team,” Pat Heitz said. “He said he didn’t know when exactly but that it’s coming.”
While St. Xavier is the overwhelming favorite to win the title, Ballard expects to be in the running during the Leachman Buick-GMC-Cadillac/KHSAA State Tournament set for Tuesday and Wednesday at Bowling Green Country Club.
Ballard qualified for the event for just the second time in program history, having finished fourth in 2002. Heitz said he saw promise early this season when the Bruins tied for sixth in the Kentucky Invitational Tournament.
“There were two things we’ve really improved on,” Heitz said. “First, we have really good putters. … Second, they’re no longer intimidated playing against St. X. The last couple of years I didn’t feel that way.”
Ballard features two seniors (Patrick Oakley and Kevin Lin) and three sophomores (Dominic Ramsey, Anuj Chhabra and Jensen Klondike) who posted a team score of 297 to finish as the Region Six runner-up last week behind St. Xavier (283).
Ramsey and Chhabra were Ballard’s leaders in the regional, both shooting 73s.
“We’ve been planting the seeds for weeks now,” Heitz said. “We told them that if you can make it to State, anything’s possible.”
But the Bruins will have to dethrone a St. X team that features five seniors, all of whom were members of last year’s state title team.
“They’re arguably the best Kentucky high school team of all-time,” Heitz said.
Three of the Tigers have committed to NCAA Division I schools – Allen Hamilton and Matt Liston to Kentucky and Michael Sass to College of Charleston – and Billy Basham and Drew Kiehl are expected to as well.
Perhaps most impressive is that all five won an individual title this season.
“With the level of competition we played, that’s unheard of,” St. X coach Dan Utley said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the five came away with the individual title this week.”
The top four teams in the Kentucky Golf Coaches Association’s rankings all made the field, with No. 1 St. X joined by No. 2 McCracken County and co-No. 3s Franklin County and Union County. Region Five runner-up Bullitt East will join St. X and Ballard as the Louisville-area squads in the field.
Six of the top 10 individuals from last year’s State Tournament are back, led by defending champion John Augenstein of Owensboro Catholic. Others are St. Xavier’s Hamilton, Danville senior Spencer McKinney, Glasgow junior Chase Landrum, Lyon County sophomore Cullan Brown and Mason County senior Tyler Lippert.
Individual qualifiers from the Louisville area were Holy Cross senior Caleb Wimberg, North Oldham junior Mason Lenhart, Christian Academy junior Hayden Zimmerer and Trinity freshman Evan Bone.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and [email protected]
BOYS GOLF STATE TOURNAMENT
* When: Play starts at 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday and 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday.
* Where: Bowling Green Country Club.
* Defending champion: St. Xavier.