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Good nucleus back for HHS golf

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Four years ago, Trey Herman and Nick VonLintel, then juniors, guided the Hays High School boys' golf team to a second-place finish at state. That year VonLintel won Class 5A's individual crown, while Herman tied for third.

In 2011, the duo -- who are juniors on the golf team at Fort Hays State University -- helped lead the Indians to a fifth-place finish at state, and Herman took second overall to St. Thomas Aquinas' Joseph Winslow, a three-time state champ and current University of Iowa golfer.

Since their graduation, Hays High has settled for back-to-back eighth-place finishes at state, its only top-10 finisher being then-junior Kaden Beilman a season ago. He shot a 77 to finish 10th.

"When we had Trey and Nick, those guys were always shooting low," Hays High golf coach Mark Watts said. "Then our next four were OK. You need kids to be able to go low if you want to make it to state championships. They didn't shoot that low last year -- around 80. There were some in the 70s, but (this season) I'm expecting them to get in the 70s."

The reason for the optimism in 2014 is Hays High returns six of its top seven golfers from a year ago. The only player not returning from last year's varsity team is Ryan Unruh, who averaged 82.4 a round last year and finished 65th at state.

The Indians bring back their top two scorers by average from last season in Beilman (80.5) and sophomore Payton Ruder (82.3). Rounding out the rest of the six-man varsity team are seniors Lane Clark (85.6) and Chase Lynd (86.8), and juniors Nathan Romme (84.2) and Cash Hobson (85.4).

"When you have six of your top seven returning, that's a pretty good thing to build on," Watts said. "And they won their regional last year and made it to state. We just didn't play very good at the end. So that's kind of a bright spot for our team coming back."

Watts expects Beilman and Ruder once again to lead the Indians in scoring this season, but also believes any of the six are capable of leading them at any given tournament. He also hopes the experience of this team will pay off in big ways.

While making it back to state is always a goal, the Indians' primary objective is to take back the Western Athletic Conference title from Dodge City. After Hays High won four WAC championships in a row from 2008-11, the Red Demons have won the previous two.

And getting by Dodge City won't be easy, as it returns the bulk of its team, one that finished fifth at state in Class 6A last year.

"Dodge City has won two WAC championships in a row and coach (Jim) Mapel does a great job with their team. They got two studs back," Watts said. "We'd like to unseat them. I think the record for most (WAC titles) in a row is four and we've got that. We don't want them to win four in a row."

The Indians' varsity schedule gets underway Monday at Salina Central. Their only regular-season home tournament will be the annual Bob Blazer Invitational on April 22 at Smoky Hill Country Club, although Hays High will also host regionals this year, which takes place May 19.