Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

May 1, 2013

Union's pursuit pays off with Blankenship

Senior key in Tomcats' title run

ASHLAND — In recent years, Nick Blankenship has watched area golfers such as Jared Flanery, Dagan Abdon and three of his Ashland teammates join the college ranks.

Now it’s his turn.

Blankenship signed this week with Union College, an NAIA school located in Barbourville, Ky. The Bulldogs compete in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.

“They actually were the first college to reach out to me,” Blankenship said. “Their coach (Eric Wyrick) stayed in touch. I knew they were interested, and that meant a lot. I think I can do well down there.”

Wyrick and assistant Anthony Carruba attended the signing at Ashland Blazer.

Blankenship, whose strong academics figured into his scholarship package, has been keeping tabs on Union’s golf team throughout his final high school year.

“They are getting to where they are competitive in their conference,” he said. “I think two of their players were in the top 100 in the country for NAIA.”

Union placed fifth among nine teams at the AAC men’s golf championships last month in Winchester, Tenn.

“I’m really excited,” Blankenship said. “Ever since I started playing competitive golf, this has been a goal. I watched the older guys like Jared and Dagan go off to college. Then it was guys off our team.“

Blankenship, who finished in the Top 25 of the state high school points list as a senior, becomes the fourth Tomcat golfer in three years to move on to the college level. Kelly Porter and Drew Rothenstine signed with University of Pikeville in 2011, while Jeffrey Meade is winding up his freshman year at Transylvania.

With that kind of firepower, Ashland has made four consecutive State Tournament appearances including three regional championships. Nick has been a part of them all, sharing the experience with father/coach Bob Blankenship.

“Nick got to play at state four years straight, that’s pretty rare,” Bob said. “I hope he understands how fortunate he was to be able to do that, and I think he does.”

The elementary school principal is retiring from the school system and from coaching, which will allow him time to travel to some of Nick’s college tournaments.

“This is an opportunity for him to continue playing,” Bob Blankenship said. “He and I have been doing this since he was about 3.”

Nick made his first birdie as a 6-year-old while playing at Diamond Links. He began competing on the old Tri-State Junior tour when he was 10.

“His first tournament was at Guyan Country Club (in Huntington) and it went to a playoff,” Bob recalled. “Nick was tied in his age group with a girl who ended up playing college golf. He won, thank God.”

Golf, Bob continued, has been a bonding experience for them through the years, even if father coaching son comes with challenges.

“It can be tough,” Bob said. “It was probably tougher on Nick than me. Overall, I enjoyed it. There are so many great memories. I told Union’s coach, ‘I’m glad you are coaching him, because the last four years he had to listen to me.’”

Nick won the Bellefonte Invitational last August as the Tomcats got off to a fast start and carried it through another regional title, despite losing three key players from the previous year. During the summer, Blankenship earned Player of the Year honors in the Eastern Kentucky Junior Association’s boys grade 11-12 division.

With a strong high school and junior golf foundation behind him, Blankenship is looking for continued improvement as he transitions to the college game.

“My dad and I both believe I have not reached my peak,” Nick said. “There are areas I need to improve. With the strict regimens ahead, I will be able to get there.”

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.


Text Only
Local Sports
  • 0420chattin0397.jpg Pole vaulters conquer wind in Chattin

    For obvious reasons, pole vaulting records and windy conditions don’t go together.
    Raceland’s Connor Messer and Fairview’s Morgan McIntyre raised the bar anyway at Saturday’s Ernie Chattin Memorial Invitational.
    Despite a windy challenge — especially for Messer — on the hilltop at Ashland Athletic Complex, both athletes set new pole vault marks for the 11-year-old meet and received Outstanding Performance awards.

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • 0415eastSB0170 copy.jpg Stock soaring for East eighth-grader Fouts

    With a name like Montana, you just have to go big.
    Six-foot eighth-grader Montana Fouts isn't a big talker, but when it comes to the business of softball, her skills convey a loud and clear message.
    The East Carter pitcher is making herself a can't-pass-up commodity with her flawless throwing form and sizzling speed.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lewis snaps 4-game skid, beats Ashland, 2-0

    Question: What four-game Lewis County losing streak?

    Answer: the one the Lions snapped Saturday by knocking off visiting Ashland, 2-0, in the third annual Lewis County Autism Awareness game.

    April 20, 2014

  • HIGH SCHOOL ROUNDUP: Hensley fires 2nd no-no in 2 days, Kittens split

    Ashland junior Megan Hensley no-hit Portsmouth West on Saturday, one day after dealing a perfect game, as the Kittens beat the Lady Senators 16-0 in five innings at the Valley of Thunder at Symmes Valley.

    April 19, 2014

  • west.JPG Streak snapped: Comets end 40-game losing streak to Raiders

    Nineteen years and 40 games between East Carter and West Carter have passed since the Comets have beaten the Raiders.
    Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” was the No. 1 song the last time West got a win over East.
    The visiting Comets ended almost 20 years of futility against the Raiders in dominating fashion on Friday night, defeating East Carter, 8-0.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Williams steps down as Lady Vikings coach

    Jen Williams did not make this decision lightly.

    April 19, 2014

  • HIGH SCHOOL ROUNDUP: Hensley spins perfect game

    Ashland’s Megan Hensley fired a perfect game and drove in the only runs of the game with a two-run homer as the Kittens topped Upper Arlington (Ohio) 2-0 in the Valley of Thunder at Symmes Valley on Friday night.

    April 19, 2014

  • 0418ashlandBB0268.jpg One-run fun: Ashland on smiling side of close game vs. East

    After opening the season with a 2-1 victory, Ashland has had a hard time cracking the close game code.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418_Ash_vs_JC_0003.JPG Hensley rises, fires as Kittens win big

    Johnson Central softball coach Jason Hurt’s already high opinion of Ashland junior Megan Hensley rose to another level Thursday night.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041714_29a.jpg Diller, Mackie spark Raceland

    It is time for the 16th Region to take notice of the Raceland softball team.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos