Tension yields bliss for advancing Cats

Photos by Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Will Seger, left, Reid Lorey and Jacob Bartley embraced after learning they’d placed third at Thursday’s boys golf regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville. Regional champion and top-ranked Columbus North (297), No. 3 Floyd Central (301) and the 11th-ranked Wildcats (302) will contend for a title at the state finals, which begin Tuesday at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. Jasper has reached the state finals four consecutive years, and finished third last season, four strokes shy of first place. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

HENRYVILLE — In moments of elation, the natural instinct is simple.

Hug it out.

Dru Hein embraces the idea.

As an hour or so ticked by after Jasper’s final golfer finished play — an eternity in the mind of each Wildcat — Hein could not stand still. Once the final teams’ scores began trickling in, he began relaxing. When it became certain that Hein and his teammates had secured the third-place spot at Thursday’s boys golf regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville, the burly senior began his bear-hugging binge.

Hein

“This is my fourth state in four years,” Hein said in reference to the state finals berth. “I feel incredibly relieved because we were so close to the cut line. I spent my last hour walking around the clubhouse with my hands on my head praying to God that we were going to make it.”

For a Jasper squad that came within four strokes of a state championship last season, that same number proved the difference Thursday between concluding its season and earning another shot to seize the ultimate prize.

Third-ranked Floyd Central (301) finished at the same time as the No. 11 Wildcats and nipped them by a stroke. Providence (306) and Center Grove (307) also finished around the same time as Jasper, while top-ranked Columbus North (297) captured the regional title some 60 minutes later.

As other team scores slowly became official — Corydon Central (315) slid into sixth, Bloomington North and Madison (319) tied for seventh and Bloomington South and South Spencer (320) drew for ninth — each breath became easier for the Wildcats.

Southridge (331) collected 14th in the 18-team field and Tyler Gray advanced as an individual with a 74, while Heritage Hills individual qualifiers Preston Van Winkle and Corey Teaford posted an 85 and an 88, respectively.

With a ticket to the state finals at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, which begin Tuesday, appearing imminent, stern faces loosened up. Soon enough, Hein began his sequence of squeezes.

“First thing I’m going to do is tackle Reid Lorey,” said Hein, a quasi-crazed smile on his face.

Moments later, Hein had the helpless and decidedly smaller Lorey in his grips. Deservedly so for the sophomore.

After pulling his initial drive out of bounds on the first tee en route to a double bogey, Lorey was dialed in. With a back-nine 37, the Wildcats’ No. 5 golfer set the tone with a 77.

“Just making that first mistake, it felt like, ”˜OK, now we can go out and play,’” Lorey said of his blunder on No. 1.

Simple. Lorey’s impact, however, was anything but.

“He was the MVP of the day today with that score,” Hein said bluntly. “That was enormous. For our No. 5 to come in like that and post a score — I mean, he’s beating some of the best players in the state with that score. Enormous. We weren’t making it without him.”

Added Wildcat coach Steve Milligan: “He doesn’t pick it up, we don’t make it out.”

Hein had something to do with it, too. After posting an even-par round at last Friday’s sectional, Hein bolted out of the gate Thursday, storming to 4-under through seven holes.

“I don’t know where that came from,” kidded Hein, whose team clinched the program’s 16th appearance at the state finals. “Especially starting off and it was pouring rain, my tee ball I was just praying, ”˜Oh my God, I hope I hit this in play.’ And then next thing I know, I’m hitting every green, sticking them within eight feet and just running in putts. After seven, I remember thinking, ”˜I cannot believe I’m 4-under par right now. It doesn’t feel like I should be.’”

After a consistent middle of his round, Hein bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17 before a gutsy up-and-down from the lip of a greenside bunker on 18.

“I remember thinking, ”˜I just cost us making (the state finals) because I just bogeyed two of the last three holes,” recalled Hein, whose 72 was the third-best score by any golfer.

Feelings were similar for Cam Weyer, who was on pace for a 4-over round before a triple bogey on the treacherous 18th, on which every team but one stomached at least two bogeys. The seven dropped him to 79.

“I thought I was going to cost us,” Weyer said. “But it’s a team sport and they picked me up. … We got out and we’ve got a chance at a state title and that’s the main goal.”

Will Seger amplified the Wildcat cause with a 74 and Jacob Bartley posted an 80.

Southridge’s Tyler Gray teed off the ninth hole, one of only four the junior bogeyed. Gray fired a 74, a seven-stroke improvement from last year’s regional, and advanced to the state finals as an individual.

Southridge, meanwhile, produced similar satisfaction.

Seniors Cleat Winkler (97) and Ian Mathies (103) muscled through the final round of their careers, while classmate Trey Reese fired an 84. Beau Schneider, despite posting a triple bogey on the third hole of the day, finished his last nine at 1-under to fasten a 76.

Tyler Gray gathered two birdies and finished with a 74, tying for fourth among individuals advancing to state. As he tapped in his bogey putt on the final hole, the senior received some love from teammates.

“Way to go, hot dog!” Reese shouted atop a hushed crowd, belting Gray’s nickname given to him during tennis season.

“They’ve got a great attitude toward the game,” Raider coach Brock Matthews said of his crew. “They joke around a lot, but today, when it was time to come out and play, they’re here for business. They want to play well.”

Gray shaved seven strokes off his regional score from a year ago at Country Oaks Golf Club in Montgomery and Schneider knocked off a shot as well. After launching a 2-iron off every tee except No. 12, Gray said “to finally have a good round, it feels pretty good.” He also lauded the play of Schneider, noting the mental fortitude displayed in overcoming the early triple.

“Beau, he’s probably improved the most, just not letting one hole affect him. ... Last year, that would have been a different story, I think,” Gray jabbed with a smile.

“The whole goal throughout the year is to prepare yourself for moments like this,” Matthews said. “We want them to play their best golf come tournament time and to see the scores come in today, and to see what the boys did last week (at sectional) under the circumstances, to come in second when we’re down our No. 4 man, I’m really happy for all of them. … We’re shooting some of our best scores now.”

As for the Wildcats, they hope to see a similar downward trajectory of scores Tuesday, as they aim for the program’s first state championship. Jasper finished in third place last year, tying for the best finish in school history.

As Jasper convened around Milligan after becoming aware they’d advanced, Milligan pulled some assorted papers from his back pocket. One was a scorecard from The Legends. The second, a piece of scratch paper with Monday’s bus departure times.

“We made it. But like I said, we want one thing, and No. 2 is done. Now, we’re ready for No. 3,” Milligan said in reference to advancing past regional and having a shot at a state title. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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