Emergent Pats give Cats company among elite

 

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Ian Weyer and the rest of Jasper’s boys golf team will pursue a fifth consecutive sectional title Friday at Sultan’s Run Golf Course. The eighth-ranked Wildcats expect plenty of competition from No. 11 Heritage Hills, which has enjoyed a breakout season. The Cats and Pats will be in the final trio of teams to tee off at 10:40 a.m.

By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

Don’t let the tone of Marc Schum’s voice fool you.

“Pretty well, we’ve had a great year,” the second-year coach of the Heritage Hills boys golf team said. He says it in a matter-of-fact tone that doesn’t give the listener any reason to expect what’s coming next.

“I think I would say it’s the best season in Heritage Hills history.”

The bombshell statement comes in the same nonwavering tone. It’s not that Schum isn’t happy or proud of the Patriots as they prepare for the 13-team field in Friday’s sectional at Sultan’s Run Golf Course in Jasper.

He is.

But the unprecedented success his team is absorbing this season could be sensed toward the tail end of last season when Heritage Hills qualified for regional for the first time in seven years and returned four of its top five guys.

“I would say we definitely felt it,” Heritage Hills senior Nick Teaford said. “We definitely knew early that we were going to be good, based on how we were playing. So far it’s all come together and we’ve been playing good.”

Teaford

Earlier this season, Teaford hit 31 greens in regulation in a row, including all 18 during the Warrick County Invitational. There, Heritage Hills set an 18-hole school record with a 290, topping a 14-team field in winning one of its two invitationals this season. The Patriots also finished first in the Corydon Central Invitational, a 12-team field that included then-No. 3 Floyd Central, during which senior Travis Waninger carded a 66 to set a school record for an 18-hole meet.

Heritage Hills climbed as high as No. 11 in the state rankings, where the Pats currently reside, with Schum saying this is the first year he can recall the team being ranked.

But the Patriots act like anything but wide-eyed teenagers who sneaked into some backstage party.

Sophomore Preston Van Winkle, who is striking the ball longer off the tee after taking offseason lessons in Evansville, barely spoke above a whisper while saying, “We want everybody to know that Heritage Hills golf is pretty good and we’re improving.”

Waninger

The low-key approach seems to align with Schum, who became familiar with a host of recent and current Patriot golfers while logging plenty of rounds at nearby Christmas Lake Golf Course.

“I think they’ve kept their heads on pretty straight,” Schum said. “We’ve talked about that a lot. It’s nice to be recognized but once you step on the course, it doesn’t mean anything. We’ve kept that in check, don’t pay much attention to it. That’s the way we’ve approached that.”

Heritage Hills will be trying to win its second sectional title; the first came in 2004. Jasper, meanwhile, has won the last four sectionals and five of the last six. The Wildcats have won 17 overall. They know who their main competition is while trying to get No. 18, as Jasper’s Ian Weyer said the Patriots are capable of beating the Wildcats.

“We just play our own game, we’ll be fine,” Weyer said, “but that’s really the team I think is closest to us.”

“Heritage Hills, they’re a very outstanding team this year,” Jasper coach Steve Milligan added. “Marc Schum has done an outstanding job with that team. They’ve really come a long ways from where they’ve been.”

Agreeing with Teaford, Milligan said he could see earlier this season the Patriots would represent a viable threat in the postseason.

Milligan’s team is still the one everyone is chasing — Jasper finished the season ranked three spots ahead of Heritage Hills at No. 8. Nothing resembling a personal rivalry has materialized thus far, but Weyer noted the Wildcats’ narrow dual-meet win over the Patriots two weeks ago was certainly a challenge.

Jasper pulled out a 158-162 win at Christmas Lake, as Weyer pointed out the outcome was in doubt until the final hole.

“They really improved,” Weyer said of the Patriots. “They actually have a good shot to advance to state this year if they keep on playing like they have.”

“Our boys have respect for them,” Milligan added.

“Respect” isn’t a word Schum or the Patriots directly addressed, though Van Winkle called the ranking “a big accomplishment” and added the team is certainly proud of what it’s done.

Both Schum and Milligan also talked of the importance of another local team wiggling its way into the discussion of the best teams in the state. A handful of Evansville teams are usually ranked, but the Patriots are trying to find their own spot between those schools and Jasper.

And if others in the northern part of Indiana notice, that’s all the better, too.
“Yeah, that always helps,” Schum said of the ranking. “You want teams in your area to be recognized, like we said before, so that they are looking at us. But a lot of times we’re not noticed down here.”

“I think it helps bring more exposure to the area, that southern Indiana is getting better at golf,” Weyer added. “It’s not all about the Indianapolis teams. Some of the teams down here can actually put up a fight and compete.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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