When Jan TerVeen describes the Bellevue boys' rise from seventh place in their conference to a Division II state berth, it doesn't sound unlikely.
A win in the nine-team Willard Invite. A second at their host invitational. First-place in the Sawmill Creek sectionals.
So why couldn't Bellevue land in the top two teams at the Sycamore Springs district tournament?
"It really wasn't (a surprise)," the Bellevue coach said. "If you would have told me at the beginning of the year with the kids we had returning that this was going to happen, I'd have believed you.
"Knowing how we played in the (Northern Ohio League) tournament against some of the teams we were going to be facing at sectionals, we knew we had a chance there. When we won that, we knew a lot of the same teams we've been playing were going to be at districts, too. We knew we had a chance."
But Bellevue, on paper, hadn't seemed to be the likeliest area team to make the trip to Columbus. The Redmen finished play in the Northern Ohio League with a 4-10 record after struggling in their conference tri-matches.
"It's not like we were playing badly in the league. We'd shoot good scores and just get beat," TerVeen said. "We ended up losing six matches in three days.
"For instance, at home we shot a 162 which on most days is going to win, but Upper Sandusky shot a 158 and Willard shot 159. Both teams beat us after we played a solid round."
The Redmen won the sectional tournament at Sawmill Creek Golf Club in Huron with a score of 330, seven strokes in front of second-place Upper Sandusky. Taylor Radloff led the pack with 80, followed by Ryan Cook and Sam Strayer with 82 apiece and Justin Schoen with an 86. Lucas Rospert's 88 would have carried the Redmen to districts as well.
The Bellevue boys fell far back -- 13 strokes -- from leader Napoleon through the first nine holes of district play at Sycamore Springs. The Redmen were on pace for a 342. It was a fair score, but not good enough.
TerVeen told his kids they'd have to step it up on the back nine to break through to Columbus.
"We'd played the course a couple of times this year and a couple times last year, so we knew it pretty well," TerVeen said. "We knew where we could take some chances and where we had to play it a little safe. All of the sudden the putts started falling and we started getting some good breaks."
The Redmen put together a 160 on the back nine, cutting Napoleon's lead to just three strokes. Bellevue was in a tenuous second place.
The Redmen used the scores from their fourth and fifth golfers, Strayer and Rospert, as the pair averaged 40 on the back nine. Cook, Strayer and Rospert have scored well at times but have struggled with consistency.
"(Justin Schoen) and Taylor had been solid all year long," TerVeen said. "In many cases, it was just, 'Could we get two more scores to go with them?' In sectionals and districts, we were able to do that. We were a really deep team for the last two years and it's starting to show up now."
The Redmen stood around the scorers' table off of the No. 9 green waiting for the final Van Wert golfer to come through.
"It was just a matter of watching the scoreboard," TerVeen said. "They were right there in front of you, but nobody was following them so we didn't know how they were playing. It was a little tense."
The top two Cougars turned in nice scores. Bellevue figured that the final golfer from Van Wert needed a 41 to oust them from the state tournament. None of the other teams were close.
After 40 minutes of waiting, Bellevue learned that the Cougars had fallen three strokes short, earning the Redmen a trip to the state tournament for the first time since 1985.
"The one unknown is the golf course. We don't know the golf course very well, but I told the kids, 'A hundred yards there is the same as a hundred yards here,'" TerVeen said. "They've got to be comfortable with their distance control with different clubs and know what clubs to hit under certain conditions."
And they won't have much time to practice: They have one practice round at 11:20 a.m. Thursday morning on Ohio State's Scarlet Course. No extra shots, no extra rounds. That's all the time they'll have on the course in the interest of keeping the tournament fair for qualifiers from outside of the Columbus area.
The 12 teams and 12 individuals, 72 golfers in all, start on Friday morning with tee-offs in threesomes on Nos. 1 and 10 scheduled from 9-10:28 a.m. Last years' top four teams -- Kettering Alter, Huntington Valley University School, Columbus DeSales and reigning champ Dayton Oakwood -- return to the final round.
"This opportunity doesn't come up very often," TerVeen said. "It's been 25 years since we've had a Bellevue team at the state tournament, so we're just going to relax and have fun. We're certainly not the favorite in the tournament, but our goal is to finish as best we can. If we're in the top 10, great. Top five, that's even better. We don't necessarily have any goals in mind other than 'Do the best we can.'"
But one finish is certain: The 7th-place team in the NOL is guaranteed a top-12 spot in the state.
It sounds unlikely, but it really wasn't.
For more state golf, read the Fandy.com Magazine in Thursday's Sandusky Register and Norwalk Reflector.