Competing as a Team
Chemistry key component for Dublin Jerome
The Dublin Jerome High School boys and girls golf programs have been unmatched at the state level since beginning play in 2004.
With Chad Merzbacher, Mert Selamet and Michael Cress among those who have come through the boys program and Ashley Baker, Joon Hee Shim and Lexie Toth among the standout girls, the boys have won five state team titles and the girls have won three. Both teams have won two consecutive titles.
What has set the Celtics' respective championship teams apart from those throughout the rest of Ohio might be the same factor that will help the winning team of the 10th Presidents Cup: The all-important, yet abstract concept, known as team chemistry.
"There are five guys on a (high school) team, and knowing there are four other guys working for you is going to make you more motivated," said Jerome senior Brady Bohl, who helped his team to state titles each of the last two seasons.
The U.S. team has gone 7-1-1 in the Presidents Cup, which began in 1994 and will be held for the first time at Muirfield Village on Oct. 1-6.
The format for the event will include 11 foursomes, 11 four-ball matches and 12 singles matches all worth one point each for a total of 34 points.
High school state competitions have a much different format, considering the team score is determined by combining the scores over two 18-hole matches.
One thing third-year Jerome boys coach Craig Zesiger has witnessed is how exciting it can be when his players are encouraging each other before a match.
He believes similar camaraderie can be developed inside the teams participating in the Presidents Cup.
"These guys are so good and are around the sport week in, week out," Zesiger said. "Obviously playing for your country spurs these guys on. What it's like in their team meetings can carry over to the golf course.
"Our team chemistry was excellent the last two years. I've seen teams where the guys are divided. I think if you've got a situation like that, you're not necessarily going to try as hard for your team."
At the Division I state girls golf tournament a year ago, Jerome was third with a 313 after the first day before shooting 316 on the second day to finish with a 629 that gave the Celtics the team title by one stroke over Medina Highland.
"When we see each other in passing on the fairway, we try to wave at one another and send positive messages," junior Sybil Robinson said. "The team camaraderie aspect of it is important. You kind of put yourself in a different mindset because you're not just playing for yourself. Playing for your team definitely helps push you through in the tough times."
Once on the course, the importance of what Zesiger calls "grinding," combined with being able to have a strong short game, can make the difference between winning a championship and coming in second.
A U.S. team that has won the Presidents Cup each of the last four competitions has seven players in Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Bill Haas and Webb Simpson back from the 2011 squad.
That experience should help against an International team with four returning players from 2011.
"Obviously the talent is first and foremost, and then I'd say probably team chemistry is most important," Zesiger said. "The ability to grind a little bit and to do it for their teammates helps. I've always had a good leader who'd try to take the reins."
"I try to approach (the boys state tournament) like it's any other match, but you really have to concentrate on the short game," Bohl said. "Once you get to the greens, you haven't even started yet."
The Jerome girls team has won six consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division championships and has captured nine league titles in its 10 seasons.
Toth, who is in her third season as one of the team's top players, admits that it's natural to compete against her teammates throughout the regular season because that's often where her toughest competition exists.
The same competition that drives the members of the U.S. team against one another on the PGA Tour is something they'll attempt to channel into team play at the Presidents Cup.
"All of us are competitive with one another," Toth said. "We tell each other that we want to beat each other, but I always say I'd rather win a team championship more than an individual championship. That's going to drive me to get better."
Amber Jackson, who played for Dublin Coffman's 2000 girls golf state championship team and is in her first season as Dublin Scioto's coach, is interested to see how the talent on the U.S. and International squads translates into a team competition at the Presidents Cup.
"Golf is such an individual sport, but when you get together you're not just playing for yourself," said Jackson, whose maiden name when she played for the Shamrocks was Churchill. "All of us (on the 2000 Coffman team) were really close. We did things outside of golf and made it fun. We also knew when to be serious and when to cheer each other on. If one of us had a bad day, we wanted everyone to do well.
"When you hear cheering or clapping, you're always hoping in the back of your mind that your team is doing well."