With two teams hot on Dublin Jerome’s heels down the stretch at the Division I girls golf state tournament, Celtics coach C.D. Butcher relied on the saying that had become a motto between him and his players.
“Something he always talked about is, ‘How does the shark eat the whale?’ ” junior Alexa Prettyman said. “One bite at a time. It’s kind of something random, but it is so true. He has ingrained that in us all year, taking it one match at a time, one shot at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself. He helps us so much with our mental game and staying positive.”
Butcher drove home the point by purchasing a plastic shark for each of his six varsity golfers before the season.
“It’s not quite a coaching strategy that will earn me a book,” he said.
Celtics players believe, however, that such an approach helped them clinch the team’s first state championship in eight years.
Jerome was even on the final four holes — a combined 20 pars — to finish with a two-day total of 597, 11 shots ahead of both New Albany and Rocky River Magnificat, to capture the program’s seventh title.
Butcher, The Dispatch’s All-Metro Girls Golf Coach of the Year, has been in charge for six of them and was an assistant for the first, in 2005, the program’s second year.
Four Celtics earned top-20 finishes at state, led by Prettyman (tied for second, 143) and classmate Ellie Ryu (tied for 10th, 149). Seniors Mia Ringger and Addie Yarbrough were 16th and tied for 19th, respectively.
“Coach always says we’re a really deep team, (that) we can all go low and we have really great days,” Ryu said at state. “We didn’t talk about anything special other than handling pressure and frustration and playing the best we can.”
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Butcher, a 1986 graduate of Oxford Talawanda, saw early on that his team was deep enough to win a championship. He did not shy away from sharing expectations.
“This is one of the first years I started from the beginning of the season telling the girls that they could be the best,” Butcher said. “It’s always good to be an underdog. That could have backfired, but the girls love a challenge. They aren’t afraid of big situations.
“(The end of the season), that’s one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had with a team.”
Senior Medha Pothuru is Jerome’s other loss to graduation. Sophomore Lorna Zhang should join the top five in 2024.
Even with a history of reloading, Butcher and his players are aware of the difficulty in repeating. Butcher, who coached the Celtics to five consecutive titles from 2011-15, said expectations sometimes make Jerome a victim of its own success.
“Everybody just expects Jerome to be at state,” he said. “I see how hard these girls work, how many hours the girls put in … and they don’t get the respect they deserve for that.”
The Dispatch’s Athlete of the Year in girls golf will be among the honors announced at the Central Ohio High School Sports Awards in June.
Dublin Jerome girls golfers win Division I state championship
The Dublin Jerome girls golf team won its first state championship since 2015 on Saturday at Ohio State’s Gray Course.