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Experience-rich MHS has high hopes

By Joel Jellison

The Manhattan High boys’ golf team won’t be lacking experience when they open the season today at Salina Municipal Golf Course.

The Indians return four players with varsity experience, including three with major playing time.

MHS has one senior in its varsity lineup in Joe Ballard, along with sophomore brothers Scott and David Woods. Graham Grable, who played some varsity golf last season, also returns.

MHS coach Brad Ficke said they will take freshmen Pierson McAtee and Cole Dillon to today’s tournament.

“Those two qualified to practice with varsity and have been doing pretty well,” he said. “Pierson and Cole both are pretty mature freshmen and have had a lot of experience. Class 6A golf will be different for them, but that experience will help them.”

Ficke said another player will factor into the varsity rotation, as junior Adam Hagedorn will move up from playing on junior varsity last year.

Ballard will be making his first athletic appearance for the Indians since suffering a torn ACL last June during football camp at Pitt State.

Ficke said the most noticeable change is on Ballard’s physique. But his play has been good.

“So far so good,” he said. “He had plenty of time to recuperate and to my knowledge there hasn’t been too many setbacks so, so far so good.”

With so much experience coming back from last season’s team, Ficke said the expectations are high all around.

“This will be Joe’s fourth time through the process and the Woods boys having gone through it is already a big difference,” he said. “I think everybody has high expectations because they know what they are capable of. We tried out in three days and have had three weeks of practice with the weather, so we have been ready for April.”

Ficke also said weather has been a factor for the team this spring. After seeing a few years of inclement weather during the first few weeks of spring practice, leading to the team hitting the course sparingly, the team has been relishing this opportunity.

“We hardly knew what to do,” he said. “I think last year we had three weeks of practice below 45 degrees, and that’s when we could practice. I think it has helped the mental preparation for the season, because sometimes that’s frustrating for them when they can’t even practice.”

The Indians will host the Manhattan Invitational on April 9, at the Manhattan Country Club.

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