Boys golf leaves legacy with highest state tournament finish in school history

Daniel Heister, AJ Wilhelm, Timmy Hollenbeck, Nate Vonderhaar, Luke Attal, Tim Lambert, and Jim Burkardt celebrate the Comets’ historic state tournament performances.

Sean Speidel | The Chronicle

Although they fell short of their goal to win a state championship, the Mason boys golf seniors capped off their historic careers with the highest OHSAA state tournament finish in school history. 

The team placed second, finishing just three strokes behind St. Ignatius. On the first day at the OHSAA State tournament, the team shot their highest round of the season by 11 strokes. The Comets entered the second day of the tournament in fourth place. Following their rough start, the golfers came in hot on the second day, and nearly set a course record in their effort to counteract the deficit. Vonderhaar and Wilhelm rallied back and tied for individual runner-up but their efforts proved to be too little, too late as St. Ignatius narrowly beat out the Comets for the state championship trophy.

The second-place finish in the state tournament was not how the team was hoping to finish off their historic regular season and postseason run. Luke Attal, who was the Comets’ fourth-highest finisher and placed 30th overall, said that even though they fell short of their ultimate goal, the team is still very happy with their final season of Mason golf.

“You can’t overlook the regular season that we had,” Attal said. “It was a good season, it’s just not the finish that we wanted.”

The state tournament may have concluded their high school careers, but it is not the end of the story for four of the top golfers on the team. They will continue to compete at the next level as they are each committed to division-1 universities. Nate Vonderhaar is committed to Miami University (OH), AJ Wilhelm is committed to Xavier University, and Timmy Hollenbeck and Daniel Heister are committed to Wright State University. 

All of the golfers have been golfing competitively since they were in middle school, and have been key members of the high school team since their freshman year. Vonderhaar, Hollenbeck, and Wilhelm have each won GMC Player of the year honors at least once in their careers. Attal said that because they have been playing with each other for so long, he’s been able to grow closer with his teammates and watch them get better and better.

“It’s been cool to see how everyone has grown together,” Attal said. “That’s been one of my favorite parts of being on the team.”

From intense ping pong matches to hotel room pillow fights, the bond that this group share goes beyond just being teammates. Daniel Heister, who finished third for the Comets and seventh overall, said that most of his favorite memories did not even take place on the course, but rather were spent having fun with his teammates.

“It’s kind of ironic, but golfing was probably the least fun of all the things we did,” Heister said.

The golfers treat each other like family. Wilhelm said that the brother-like bond between the Vonderhaar and Wilhelm tied for runner-up at the state tournament, and golfers will live past Mason Golf and that these teammates are the best that he could have asked to compete with.

“It’s been a pleasure playing alongside these absolute studs,” Wilhelm said. “I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend my four years. I’ve learned a lot of life lessons and had new experiences that helped shape the person that I am.”

The golfers capped off their careers with historic seasons filled with personal bests and broken records but fell short of their ultimate goal to win a state championship. Timmy Hollenbeck said that he got emotional when he realized that his career with Mason golf had come to an end.

“I got a little teary-eyed stepping away from the hole,” Hollenbeck said. “I walked off the green and all of my teammates came over and gave me a hug. That’s kind of when it set in that it was the last ride.”

Photo by Drew Vaughn