Cats crowned again in extended dayJune 1, 2013
By JOE JASKINSKI
Herald Sports Reporter
JASPER — Just after completing the 18th hole at Sultan’s Run Golf Club, golfers must scale 35 uneven wooden steps before finding a cart path. From there, a two-tiered hill stands between a fatigued swinger and the clubhouse.
After a boys golf sectional Friday mired by morning storms, heavy downpours and afternoon humidity, endless leaden feet trudged up the daunting peak, a slight look of reproach stained on many brows.
Then came Dru Hein, who parred the final hole and was greeted by a hoard — his family, Jasper coach Steve Milligan and about a dozen other Wildcat supporters — who swamped the senior with high-fives, hugs and handshakes.
Ten minutes later, after executing a knee-knocking pitch from a downhill lie off a 15-foot ledge and subsequently sinking the left-to-right putt, Will Seger too came barreling up the steps.
They weren’t tired, when everything said they should have been. Not surprising, that indefatigability became Jasper’s thematic fiber in its sixth straight sectional title — the state’s third-longest streak — which the No. 12 Wildcats (309) secured handily over Southridge (346) and South Spencer (350), both of which will join Jasper at Thursday’s regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville.
Another title. The euphoria wanes with the normalcy, right?
“I don’t think that anything really becomes normal,” Hein said. “Every day, we play how we can and it’s just another sectional victory. Every one’s as sweet as the last one.”
A disheartened Heritage Hills finished fourth, one point from the Rebels and a chance for the Patriots to continue their season. However, Preston Van Winkle and Corey Teaford’s 81s did qualify the two Patriots as individual advancers for Thursday’s regional.
Springs Valley (357), Paoli (378), Perry Central (424) and Loogootee (433) shadowed the Patriots, while Orleans (436), Forest Park (437) and Northeast Dubois (594) rounded out the field.
Once again, it was the Wildcats’ day. A long one, it was.
Even after the weather stunted tee times by two hours, Hein and Seger continued playing even after final scores were in. With both Wildcat carding 72s, the duo took to the first tee for a one-hole playoff, which Seger snagged with a par.
Thinking back to his improbably elevated up-and-down on 18, Seger spoke succinctly.
“I was just trying to make the best score possible, and put it up there on a ledge in front of everyone. It was very memorable,” the medalist said. “I’m never going to forget that.”
Don’t be fooled by the paltry scores. The shapely course coupled with damp landscape led many numbers and stress levels to balloon.
Managing the anxiety was the name of the game. Ask Reid Lorey.
The Jasper sophomore’s tee shot and subsequent recovery shots left him sifting through dense heather before finally salvaging a 14 on the par-4 eighth. No worries.
“I just made a dumb mistake, tried to play it and paid the consequences,” said a calm Lorey. “After I got done with that, I just kind of laughed a little bit.”
After making the turn, Lorey fired a back-nine 38 to finish with an 87.
“The mental game,” Milligan said. “I was so proud of him because he held in there. He’s come a long way.”
Southridge required some mental fortitude of its own, especially when regular starter Ian Mathies informed Raider coach Brock Matthews on Friday morning his sickness from the previous night hadn’t passed. So Matthews made a quick dial to Corbin Neu around 7:15 a.m. Neu, who hadn’t practiced with the team all week, called Knies Sawmill to inform them he wouldn’t be making it to work, grabbed his clubs and was bound for the course.
“Quarter after seven, got a phone call — ”˜Get ready to play.’ So I had to go get my stuff ready and get to the bus by 8:15,” recalled Neu, who assured he hadn’t been fired from the mill for missing work. “Just had to do my best to get my swing ready.”
Neu’s 119 didn’t scream ”˜Wow,’ but simply “grinding out shots all day,” as Matthews put it, was enough to augment Tyler Gray’s 74, Trey Reese’s 84, Beau Schneider’s 85 and Cleat Winkler’s 103, together sending the Raiders onward to Thursday.
“The hard work we do in practice every day just pays off. And I know for Beau and Tyler especially,” said Neu, as a smiling Gray gave him a pat on the chest in passing. “It’s just great to have our team advance to the next level.”
A unified and young Patriot unit stood together by the 18th green as the final groups approached, crunching the numbers to identify their odds of seizing the final regional team spot. As a collective, the scores didn’t add up, inducing a blunt and bitter evaluation by Heritage Hills coach Marc Schum.
“Evaluate the season as successful? Not without moving out of here, no,” Schum said.
“I take away that we’re young, inexperienced, somewhat lack a mental toughness, and they’re going to have to do a whole lot of hard work in the offseason.”
Evan Braun carded a 93 for the Patriots, while Sam Collins chipped in with a 96 to combine with Teaford and Van Winkle’s 81. A somber Van Winkle dwelled on missed greens and sloppy par-saving attempts. Yet he also looked at the experience as a foundation to work off of for a team that returns all 12 golfers.
“It’s a great experience to play as a young kid, and of course, it just builds on for the future with regional and everything else that’s to come,” Van Winkle said.
As it has seemingly all season, Forest Park again witnessed progression concretely. Ranger coach Chris Tretter, beaming as Winston Glenn concluded the Rangers’ final round, spoke in comparative terms to fully illustrate the point. Between this season and last, the team doubled in roster size, shrank its nine-hole average by 20 strokes, its conference meet score by 45 strokes, and saved the best for last at Sultan’s Run.
The Rangers shaved 59 strokes off their score from the previous year’s sectional.
“It’s great to watch these guys improve and I couldn’t be happier for the improvements that they made and I look forward to even better things,” Tretter said.
“The level of work that they put in this year, but more importantly the level of work that those kids put in in the offseason, that’s how we improved.”
Glenn soldiered on to complete a round of 100, with a 50-50 split between the front and back nines. The soft-spoken junior jokingly called it “the worst day of the season” before putting the team’s progression in context.
“Words can’t describe that by itself,” Glenn said of the stroke improvement. “The team’s done great, we’ve doubled our numbers, it’s been a good year.”
Standing beside Glenn as he waited outside the clubhouse, Northeast Dubois Trey Foltz made light of his 116 as well.
“Worst day of my life,” the sarcastic sophomore said in a dull tone.
Foltz ended up slapping together an 11 on hole No. 16 after finding sand twice and water once. He then bogeyed the next hole.
“Didn’t take much to improve after that,” he cracked, referencing to the 16th.
Northeast Dubois coach Larry Matheis said he saw an improvement in Foltz’s tempo as the day went along, a microcosm of the strides he saw out of his top scorer all season, as well as Shaydon Voelkel, Kaden Quinn, and Bryce Neukam.
“This game, you just don’t learn it overnight. I’ve been playing the game for over 40 years and I’m still learning things. You just don’t quit learning in this game,” Matheis said.
“I think they’ve come a long way, I really do. They’re hitting the ball better, and for some of them, this is the first time they’ve been in the tournament. And then they got a wonderful day of rain, so it was a challenge for them. But I think they’ll be all right, I really do.”
Upon walking away from the concluding green, Foltz proclaimed that his clubs would find a resting place in his closet for the next few months. Within 10 minutes, thoughts had changed.
“I’ll probably be golfing tomorrow,” he admitted.
So, too, will the Wildcats, who plan on venturing at least once to Champions Pointe before Thursday’s regional.
For now, stage one is complete.
“There are three steps we want to make,” Milligan said, “and step one is done.”
Contact Joe Jasinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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