CENTERBURG — For the second year in a row, Centerburg High School has a golfer representing it at the Division III State Tournament. Junior Troy Lemke is following in the footsteps of teammate Garrison Myles, who qualified last year as a junior.
Lemke qualified for the state tournament by shooting a 78 at River Green Golf Course on Oct. 6. The district wasn’t without any excitement for Lemke, who had to win a playoff hole to advance.
“I was really pleased with how I played (at the district tournament),” said Lemke. “As soon as I walked off the green last year, my goal was to make it to state. I shot a 78, but I didn’t know if that would get me in. The wait was hard, but I got in after winning the playoff.
“I bombed my drive and had a 50-yard chip on. Then I had just the one putt. I hadn’t been making any putts all day, so I was thrilled.”
Confidence has been one of Lemke’s greatest strengths this season. He has confidence in his shots, which combined with his competitive nature, has helped improve his game.
“I’ve lowered my average by two or three strokes, and over 18, I’ve lowered it by five strokes,” Lemke said. “I’ve been more consistent this year, which is the key. That really boosted my confidence this year. It has built all year, and I’ve gotten better.
“I expected to make the state tournament. Before the season started, I really started pushing myself to become a better player. I practiced hard and played a lot over the summer.”
“He has come a long way,” said Altizer. “He had his rough patches during the season, but all golfers do. He has overcome those, and he knows he can shoot good scores. Once you know that, you expect to go out and be better every time.”
Lemke knows he has the ability to compete at the state level, but like any athlete, he must perform when it truly matters.
“His competitiveness helps,” said Centerburg coach Nathan Altizer. “You don’t have to push him to get better. He wants to get better, and for the most part, he keeps a pretty level head on the golf course. That’s something that is a great attribute to him. I think that’s what separates him from a lot of other golfers in our league and other golfers he competes with. He kind of stays the moment and doesn’t get too frustrated on the course.
“Consistency helps. He was more consistent this year than last. I think he is right on the edge of being a really, really good golfer. He is already a good golfer, but I think going to state will be good for his confidence. Last year, it seemed like the 80 mark was a hurdle for him. He could get there, but couldn’t hardly break it. Now that he has broke it consistently, if he shoots an 80, he is disappointed. Now that he can shoot in the 70s, he belongs with the top guys in the district.”
Play The Ohio State University Scarlet Course for the first time will be intimidating. It measures 7,115 yards from the black tees and has a rating of 74.0 with a slope of 139. Altizer is hoping that Lemke’s practice round, coupled with the knowledge he gained from watching Mount Vernon’s Charlie Phillips compete there two years ago, will help calm him come Friday morning.
“With his game, I don’t think (the course distance) is going to be a huge deal,” said Altizer. “It is about driving and being straight, and that’s a big part of his game, staying in the fairway and keeping the ball in play. It’s a long course, but it will get really long is you’re off the fairway. I think the fairways are pretty generous, which is going to help Troy. He can be aggressive off the tee with his driver.”
“The course itself is the trickiest part. I’m going to have to be hitting shots that I normally don’t hit,” said Lemke. “It is a long course so I’ll have to hit a 5- or 6-iron into the green instead of wedges. There are a lot of bunkers, and a lot more hazards. Overall, it will be really tough.
“I’ve been hitting a lot of bunker shots, and a lot of long irons (in practice). I’ve been doing everything coach has asked me to.”
Mother Nature is also going to play a role in the state tournament. Temperatures in the low to mid 40s coupled with the chance of rain will make it tough on the golfers.
“The one thing about the weather is everyone has to play in it,” Altizer said. “We’re working on his mental game to get him prepared for it. There is the potential to have a couple of bad holes, but I think if you go into it knowing there are some bad holes, when they happen you won’t be surprised. You can move on. After what we played with at sectionals, I don’t know if it can feel much worse with the wind conditions we had there.”
Altizer expects Lemke to have some struggles on Friday, but he believes he can overcome those and settle in.
“Day 1 will be more of a mental challenge,” said Altizer. “He has to talk himself into knowing he is playing with the best in the state in Division III, and convince himself that he belongs there. The way he has been playing — he has been playing with a lot of confidence — hopefully, we can carry that over and he can handle himself.”
No matter what happens, Lemke is proud of the fact that he made it. He can say he accomplished something that many others didn’t, but that hasn’t squelched his desire to play his best.
“I don’t really have anything to lose,” said Lemke. “I don’t have expectations to finish amazing; I just want to play well and, hopefully, next year, we can get there as a team. That’s what I’m looking for.”
“Making it there is a success in itself,” said Altizer. “I know that he is going to go out and give it all he’s got, playing the best he can. We have a number in mind, based on previous scores. It is 160 or better. If he can do that over the course of the two days, he has a good chance to finish in the top 10 and earn all-state honors. The fact that he is going as an individual, he doesn’t have to worry about the team. It is an all or nothing situation. In a way, that’s good because he can be aggressive. ... We are just looking for a good score. As a coach and the school, we are already proud of him no matter what happens.”