Cats maintain reign; Rangers join the partyJune 3, 2017
By MICHAEL HUGHES
JASPER — Slow down, Carson Pierce.
As he was recounting what went right at Friday’s boys golf sectional at Sultan’s Run Golf Club, the Jasper senior started at the beginning. Only he overshot reality just a bit.
“Once I had six straight birdies — or six straight pars, may bad,” Pierce said with a laugh. “Six straight pars on the first six holes. I kind of figured it would be a decent day.”
This time, Pierce might underselling his “decent” outing. It concluded a 10th straight sectional title and a team round of 311 for Jasper to extend the Cats’ state-best active streak of sectional championships, and Pierce cruised to medalist honors in firing a 2-under par 70 — just one stroke shy of Will Seger’s school record of 69. Jasper’s Jack Bies claimed second individually with a 77, while teammate Bryan Hagan tied for the fourth-best score with an 80. That mark was level with Southridge’s Drew Dearing, who earned a second straight trip to regional as the second individual qualifier. Heritage Hills’ Josh Nelson also paced his team with an 80 in lifting the Patriots (339) to a second-place finish.
Forest Park (349) soared to third to secure the final qualifying spot and its first regional appearance in program history, while Southridge (381) settled into sixth. Forest Park will join Jasper and Heritage Hills in Thursday’s regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville.
Pierce’s sprint past the field didn’t surprise his coach, Steve Milligan, who said the senior is a threat to shoot like that each time out.
“A couple weeks ago right here against Heritage Hills he shot a 31 on the front side,” Milligan said. “That was a school record. No one really knows that because I didn’t really say anything that day because I had to go check if it was a school record.”
Luke Lehane (84) and Matt Lottes (87) also played their parts in extending a streak that’s a little difficult for some to grasp. Pierce was an 8-year-old the last time the Wildcats didn’t leave the course with a sectional trophy. He said he can’t remember much from that year aside from the occasional golf tournament with his dad, but admits his thoughts were far from anything to do with high school golf.
Hagan, well, he can’t recall any memories at all.
“None that I can think of off the top of my head,” said the junior who was 7 at the time. “That’s how long ago it is.”
Heritage Hills has had to settle for second the last two years, this time boosted by Nelson. Supporting him were Alex Gordon (84), Rylan Cox (87), Creek Talbott (88) and Dakota Deller (91) in a round Patriot coach Marc Schum said his team “played good enough to get out of here, so that’s the important thing.”
As for Nelson, the sophomore powered his way to the best round of his career.
“I made a birdie on the first hole, but other than that it felt like any other normal round,” Nelson said. “Once I made the turn I knew that I could easily shoot my best round of the year, I just had to keep going.”
The day felt anything but standard for the Rangers, for whom the celebration ignited before the final scores were even announced. As soon as Evan Weyer finished his round, Ranger coach Chris Tretter hustled onto the green, did the quick math on Weyer’s scorecard and swallowed the senior in a hug.
“It’s actually hard to believe right now that we made this big step for the program and what we’ve done,” Weyer said. “I know three years ago none of us thought this would happen, but we made big gains and we got ’er done today.”
Weyer closed a round he admitted could have been better with an 86, while Zach Wendholt paced the Rangers with an 81 and Bryce Brosmer (90), Aaron White (91) and Jacob Weisman (102) filled out the Ranger scorecard.
Weyer did his best to keep the thoughts of what might come after he finished his round out of his head. He managed to do so, but the same can’t be said for Tretter.
“Definitely a roller coaster waiting there,” Tretter said. “I don’t even know how to explain how I’m feeling right now. These boys — and this goes back six years to when I first took over the program — we always have such high-character boys.”
Back in October, Tretter posed his team the question, “what if?” while looking up at the wall in Forest Park’s gym. He examined each banner detailing the sectional titles for each sport. The one for boys golf was blank. He took a picture and sent it to his players with the question attached. The Rangers haven’t officially added a sectional title, but Friday was yet another building block for what Tretter said he believes is an inevitable breakthrough.
While he was reflecting on what it meant for his seniors, who made up the entirety of the Rangers’ sectional lineup, he thought about the inevitable tears he will shed once the season ends and he’s forced to say goodbye to a class he values as more than players.
“I was out here earlier this week at practice and I was driving down the 14th fairway, and it hit me and I said, ‘Could it be any better than this?’ I mean, seriously? I am out here with high-quality young men,” Tretter said. “I’m coaching them, I’m influencing them hopefully in a positive way. I treat them like my own kids, I love them to death, absolutely.”
Worth the wait for Dearing
After Dearing turned in his scorecard, the waiting game started. Southridge teed off in the second cluster out of four Friday, so that meant he and the Raiders spent a couple hours watching the scores trickle in.
In the end, his 80 earned him the second individual regional qualifying spot, and he said there was little doubt during his wait.
“I knew it had to be around 80, high 70s low 80s, I knew it had to be that,” Dearing said. “I knew I was in pretty good shape where I was.”
That score highlighted a sixth-place Southridge finish supported by Coby Reller’s 91 and Tristan Boerner’s 99. Brayden Wibbeler (111) and Michael Kappner (120) rounded out the Raider scoring.
Dearing said he was struggling up until the middle of the season, with the worst coming at Sultan’s Run during the Jasper Invitational in May, when he trudged his way to a 101. His round Friday was his best of the season.
Dearing wasn’t alone in his jump at Sultan’s Run. As a team, the Raiders lagged to a 454 team score in May before Friday’s 68-stroke improvement.
“I knew what we were capable of, and I knew 454 at the beginning of the year wasn’t us,” Raider coach Brock Matthews said. “We shouldn’t be shooting scores like that, so I knew it was possible, but I’m just glad to see it happened on the right day.”
Gutgsell a one-man team
His reason for celebration was a bit different than others at Friday’s sectional, but Northeast Dubois junior Lucas Gutgsell couldn’t help but pump his fist after sinking an 8-foot putt on the 18th green.
Gutgsell was the only Jeep competing at the sectional, which ended a season in which Gutgsell played competitive golf for the first time since his freshman year, with the highlight coming at the Blue Chip Conference meet at Country Oaks Golf Course Club, when he fired a season-best 89.
“I plan on playing next year and this summer I’ve got two matches,” Gutgsell said. “One’s at Buffalo Trace and one’s at Santa Claus. It’s for a club out of Owensboro, Kentucky, and they’re having a two-day shootout.”
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