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From Germany to Indiana golf regional

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HIGH ON THE BOARD: Frankfort’s Sascha Pirch poses in front of his posted score after Friday’s golf sectional at Coyote Crossing. His 74 was good for third overall and qualified him for the Lake Central regional today.
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NICE JOB: Frankfort’s Sascha Pirch, left, receives congratulations from teammate Reece Mitchell after finishing his round during Friday’s West Lafayette sectional at Coyote Crossing Golf Club.
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FINISHING UP: Frankfort’s Sascha Pirch finishes up his round on the 18th hole at Coyote Crossing during Friday’s sectional.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Frankfort’s golf program received a gift at the start of the school year, when head coach Mike Kelley received word that a foreign-exchange student had an interest in playing on his team.

He didn’t know how good the German student was, but Sascha Pirch’s performance at Friday’s West Lafayette sectional cemented that he’s pretty good. Good enough to become Frankfort’s first regional qualifier since 2010 and Clinton County’s first golfer to finish in the top three overall since 2013.

“When the school year started, they told me their was an exchange student that wanted to play golf and he was pretty good,” Kelley said. “To my surprise and really pleasure, I found out it was totally true that Sascha was available and declared eligible by the IHSAA to participate in high school sports in Indiana.

“I think you participated in football too, right,” he asked Pirch, who answered in the affirmative.

“When we got to the golf course, we found out that Sascha was the real thing and he’s led our team this season not only in scoring but (others on the team) get to see his work ethic,” the coach noted. “He works at golf. There’s no doubt about it and that’s rubbed off on some of the other kids and that will pay off in the future.”

Pirch himself says he’s actually worked less on his game since coming to Clinton County. He noted during a practice session on Tuesday at Frankfort Commons Golf Club before today’s regional at Sandy Pines Golf Club in Demotte that golf took a backseat to his experience as a foreign-exchange student.

“I played less golf because my focus was on learning stuff, having fun with friends and living the culture and being in America and not playing golf,” he said. “I still played a lot but not nearly as much as I did in Germany. In Germany, I played a little bit in the winter – maybe three times a week – but here I didn’t play at all.”

That could explain the late surge Pirch made to qualify for regionals with a season-best score for 18 holes of 74. He shot a 37 for nine holes at Tipton in the middle of the season, but that was his only score below 40 until his even-par 36 on Friday’s front nine and 38 on the back.

“Yeah, it comes back,” Pirch said. “I’m feeling way more confident. In the last few weeks, it got way better. The scores didn’t get better but the feeling got better.”

He and Kelley made the hour-and-a-half drive to Demotte earlier this week to get familiar with the Sandy Pines course.

“I played good and I’m feeling confident,” Pirch said. “It’s different, but it’s a nice course and I enjoyed playing it.”

He hopes to continue with the feeling on the course he got at sectionals.

“It’s awesome,” Pirch said. “I hope I can qualify for state to get there too. That would be awesome too.”

If he can qualify for state, Pirch won’t be able to compete but it would put him in another realm in the Frankfort record books in his one brief season. He returns to Germany this weekend as a qualifier or not.

“I have five days left,” Pirch said on Tuesday. “It’s like, shoosh, not even five days anymore – like Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and I’m leaving Saturday (evening).

“I had a great time. I made a lot of friends that I’m going to miss when I leave. That’s hard for sure but it’s how it is I guess.”

Pirch spent time with two host families during his time here, first staying with Teresa and Beau Garrison before finishing his stay with fellow golfer Drew Grismer’s parents, Melinda and Andy.

“We had a great time,” Pirch said of his time with the Garrisons. “I had to change after awhile. It was just program rules and they decided I had to change.”

He noted that he likely will visit Frankfort at some point and hopes to return to the United States to play golf collegiately. School systems are one of the major differences he found about his experience here and that will likely delay any return for college.

“I’m hoping to play some college golf but that’s not for sure yet,” Pirch said. “I just have to see how everything works back in Germany and how my grades are.”

He noted that when he returns to his hometown of Bargteheide, Germany (near Hamburg) and Anne Frank, his school, he’ll have three years to complete before going to college.

“I have a lot of school left in Germany and so I’ll have to do that a little bit later,” Pirch said. “We have 13 grades in school. I would be in 11th grade right now, but I’m going to repeat the 11th grade because I didn’t learn the same things that I would learn in Germany here.”

He noted that the educational differences were a big difference during his time here, but also walking less.

“In golf, we’re walking way more (in Germany),” Pirch said. “You’re always driving in the golf cart and we’re always walking. The same way with cars. You just drive way more where we’re walking more or taking a bike.”

For him, that doesn’t go to the idea that Americans love their cars, but simple economics.

“Germans love their cars too, but it’s just way more expensive to drive them,” Pirch said. “The reason for that is our gas prices are way higher than yours, almost double that.”

Economics will also play a factor in if he returns for college in the U.S., considering the free education in Germany.

“If I’m going to try and play college golf, I will play like a (NCAA) Division II or Division III team just so you don’t have to pay that much, probably get some good scholarships,” Pirch said. “We don’t pay for college in Germany. We do have high taxes and we’re paying the taxes for free college and education. … So, I really have to get good scholarships to come and convince my parents to allow me to play college golf. They aren’t going to pay for me. That’s not going to happen.”

Despite what happens today on the golf course, he noted that he’s enjoyed his experience, even a “rough season” with the Hot Dogs in football.

“That’s why I tried it,” Pirch said. “It was fun.

“I just want to thank you for having me. I had a great year. It was awesome and I enjoyed it. Great host families, both the Grismers and Garrisons. So, I had a great year.”