JACKSON TWP.  High school golf in Ohio starts and ends its season earlier than other fall sports with good reason.

Because fall can bring unpredictable weather and golf is more subject to the impact of rain, cold and other blustery conditions than volleyball, football or soccer, teams begin matches before school is in session.

However, an early end to the season isn’t always early enough to avoid difficult weather conditions and as the Jackson Polar Bears ready for district tournament play, rain and declining temperatures are making themselves known in the area.

"Last Saturday we played Pine Hills and it was warm and the course was really firm. We played it a few days later and the course was really wet, not because of rain but because they had just watered it," head coach Jim Kish said with a laugh. "This week, the conditions have changed and there’s cooler weather."

Kish believes the firmness of the course will have a bigger effect than colder temperatures, as the way the ball bounces and the speed of putts will change with a softer course. He also pointed out that cold weather only comes into play as much as players allow it by being mentally tough.

Jackson’s top players are scattered across grade levels, with freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors all contributing this season.

Senior Brock Hawkins is the lone upperclassman in the lineup and has been the team’s third player during the season. His consistency has been a plus, according to Kish, and having played in the postseason since he was a freshman, Hawkins knows what it takes to succeed on the big stage.

Junior Andrew Wyss and sophomore Mark Dilling have filled the top two spots in the lineup and the team has gained plenty of experience on the course where for the district meet.

Jackson has also gained valuable preparation for the district meet by facing Federal League champion Green twice in tournaments in the past few weeks and, as a reigning state tournament qualifier, the Bulldogs put up low scores that gave Jackson a preview of what it would take to make it to Columbus.

"We’ve been fortunate to play Green twice in the past couple weeks at Brookside and then in the sectional tournament," Kish said. "The numbers they’re putting up have been phenomenal and we’ve also played Boardman, who was down there last year as a state qualifier with Green, and you also have our league with good teams and players as well."

Getting out of the district meet will take a score in the low 300s, Kish estimated, a mark he believes his team can reach. A playoff to determine the final player in the starting lineup was the only question mark left entering the week, but having a battle for the final spot underscores the internal level of competition within the team.

As with many solid high school programs, Jackson’s top players compete individual in amateur tournaments throughout the year and Kish knows that experience can have a big impact for players in the postseason. Wyss and Dilling may be underclassmen, but they’ve play in pressure spots before and with a berth in Columbus on the line this week, they’ll need their best effort of the season if the Polar Bears are to make a trip back to the state tournament.

The weather may not be all that hospitable, but playing on a familiar course and with their season on the line, the Polar Bears are determined to keep the year going for a while longer and earn themselves a chance to vie for a state title.

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