Shirkey hits tee shot

Bryan’s Colin Shirkey (left) follows through on his tee shot on the par 4 No. 16 hole during the Northwest Ohio Athletic League Tournament on Sept. 24 at Auglaize Golf Club in Defiance.

Bryan’s boys golf team is hoping to make a little noise in its first state tournament appearance in nearly a decade.

The Golden Bears, who are brimming with confidence after winning each of their last three tournaments, will compete in the OHSAA Division II state tournament on Friday and Saturday at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury.

“I think our kids are really focused and I think hopefully have set a goal, we want to finish in the top half,” Bryan coach Todd Grosjean said. “You never know what can happen with conditions.

“I like our chances, our kids are playing pretty well. Ball striking’s been really good, off the tee especially, and it’s going to boil down to who can make putts.”

Bryan, which has a rich golf tradition, will be making its 15th appearance as a team in the state tournament and first since 2012 (Case Hartman qualified as an individual in 2019). The Golden Bears have posted seven top-six finishes, including runner-up showings in 1974 (Class AA), 1995 and 1996.

Bryan made four appearances from 2008-12, with its best showing coming in 2009 (sixth at NorthStar with a 651). The Golden Bears finished 10th in 2011 and 2012, and were seventh in 2008.

Bryan’s recent stretch this season has been impressive.

The Golden Bears won their first Division II district title since 2011 after firing a 335 at Catawba Island Club in Port Clinton on Oct. 7. A week prior, Bryan torched Moose Landing Golf Club in Kalida with a 324 to win its first Division II sectional title since 2009.

On Sept. 24, the Golden Bears earned their third straight Northwest Ohio Athletic League title after shooting a 337 to win the conference tournament crown at Auglaize Golf Club in Defiance.

“They should be confident,” Grosjean said. “They’ve played with some very good teams. They played, in my opinion, one of the toughest district courses that I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching. But I think our kids, they set the bar pretty high.

“I know at the beginning of the season we were disappointed last year. We were very close to making it out last year (fourth at districts, top two advance) and getting to Columbus... The program is on an upswing right now and hopefully we can carry it over to Columbus and make some noise down there.”

Bryan has been led by sophomore Noah Huard, who has rounds of 78, 77 and 76 each of the last three weeks. He finished second in each tournament.

Junior Drew Dauber has posted an 81.7 average the last three weeks. Seniors Nathan Hess (83.3), Carter Brown (90) and Colin Shirkey (93.7) have also been solid during that span.

“It’s obviously really exciting,” Shirkey said. “It’s been a big goal of mine and the team’s for the past few years (to make state).

“It’s just nice to be able to have a successful season and see all the hard work pay off.”

For Hess, he will be continuing a family tradition. His dad, Steve Hess, was a member of Bryan’s 1987 Class AA state qualifying team that finished third.

“It’s cool. He mentioned something, saying ‘you’re the second Hess to go to state,’” Nathan Hess said. “I was like ‘Oh yeah, pretty cool.’”

Bryan will face another challenging course. NorthStar, a par 72 layout, can stretch more than 7,500 yards from the pro tees and plays around 6,600 yards from the member tees. Three creeks, 21 ponds and 40 bunkers are also in play, according to the course’s website.

The Golden Bears will start on hole No. 1 at 9:50 a.m. Friday for the opening round, with Saturday’s final round tee times to be determined. Bryan, the Northwest District champion, will be paired with Carrollton, the East District champion; Gallipolis Gallia Academy, the Southeast District winners; and the individual champions from the three districts.

The biggest focus for Bryan will be to enjoy the moment.

“We’ve just got to stay focused. Just got to go out and have fun, focus on what you can focus on,” Shirkey said. “I tend to play better when I’m having fun and just got to focus on what’s in front of you and get the job done.”

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