New rule a benefit for golfers, coaches

In his first season of high school golf, Zack Berry earned a strawberry milkshake and a trip to Columbus for the state golf tournament.

Believe it or not, the berth in the tournament was the unexpected treat.

At Wednesday’s Division III district golf tournament at Tannenhauf, Newton Falls No. 1 and No. 2 golfers Jacob Harrah and Sean Croell shot 84 and 88, respectively.

“A little bit later Zack comes in,” Tigers coach Scott Kernan said. “I take his card and ask, ‘What kind of milkshake do you want?’ I wanted to end the season on a positive note and buy everybody milkshakes.

“He chuckled at me and said, ‘I’ll take strawberry’ and he kind of had this smirk on his face. He said, ‘I shot 35 (on the back nine)’ and my mouth dropped. I said, ‘Oh my, you’ll qualify for Columbus,’ and sure enough he did.”

Berry, who shot a 78, and the John F. Kennedy boys golf team will be able to take advantage of a new rule amendment to the state tournament. It’s even more beneficial than a frozen dairy dessert.

Coaches are now allowed to follow along on the course and talk with their players.

“It used to be only when that player finished the hole,” Kernan said. “You could only talk from the green to next tee box. Now, you can coach them up throughout the round.

“If there’s a situation where a kid is going to try to hit over a tree, you can say, ‘Hey listen, I think you need to take a 4 iron and punch under it.’ You can give whatever advice you want to give as long as you don’t slow play up.”

It’ll especially be beneficial to Berry, a junior, who is making the trip for the first time after not even playing golf his first two years of high school.

“It’ll be calming to Zack,” Kernan said. “To have somebody there with him and talking throughout the round will put him at ease.”

Harrah will also join Berry and Kernan to get a glimpse of the tournament setup. A junior, too, his goal is to qualify next year.

“Jake knows more about golf than I do,” Kernan said. “He’ll be Zack’s right-hand man down there. He knows Zack’s swing and can dissect anybody’s swing. He’s a great team player.”

The Eagles have experience on the state’s biggest stage, playing in last year’s Division III tournament at North Star in Sunbury.

“What’s great about it is that it’s two days,” said Kennedy coach Jim St. George. “You’ve got to get out of the blocks early. We’re going to focus on the first round because it’s too hard to make up ground on day two.”

The Eagles were ninth after the first day and improved to eighth place with a two-day total of 681 in 2012.

“You’ve really got to be in the top four or five to make a big move,” St. George said.

He plans to take full advantage of the new coaching rule, though Ryan Fowler, Billy Phillips and Daniel LaPolla are three of Ohio’s most intelligent, polished and tranquil golfers.

“I have a lost of trust in my No. 1-2-and-3,” St. George said. “I’m going to focus more on my four and five guys (Ryan Theis and Zach Shoaf) because they’ll need more help with the inexperience.

“It’s awfully exciting being able to talk on the course. That makes it more enjoyable on my end, too, to coach instead of just being there.”