Two Patriot golfers are state-boundJune 13, 2014
From Herald Staff Reports
For the Heritage Hills and Jasper teams and for Southridge senior Tyler Gray, the communal expectation entering Thursday’s boys golf regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville revolved around some daunting numbers.
Eighteen teams. Seven of them ranked. Four squads nestled in the state’s top 10.
Put bluntly, “it’s a dang dog fight,” Heritage Hills coach Marc Schum said.
With the margin for error as fractional as it was, the local squads exited the Fuzzy Zoeller course with a blend of results: elation from a coach and a young group who seemed to cast any nerves aside, moderate frustration from a few missed putts that could’ve tipped the scales for an individual, and the emotional end of the road for a pair of seniors on a sectional-winning squad.
No. 2 Columbus North secured its fourth straight regional crown, posting a team total of 298, while seventh-ranked Center Grove (301) and No. 9 Bloomington South (303) rounded out the top three and will advance to Tuesday and Wednesday’s state finals at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. Heritage Hills (315) bagged sixth place, behind No. 8 Corydon Central (304) and No. 15 Floyd Central (312), but both Preston Van Winkle and Corey Teaford shot 73s to tie for second place among individuals whose teams didn’t advance. Van Winkle fastened a spot in the state finals through a three-hole playoff, and Teaford got a nod to compete after Perry Meridian’s golfer who made the cut opted out to compete in an amateur tournament instead of the state finals.
After a run of three straight state finals appearances, Jasper (323) came up short with a 10th-place finish behind No. 16 Perry Meridian (316), Columbus East (318) and No. 17 Madison (322). Southridge’s Gray, meanwhile, furnished a 77 to fall just four strokes short of competing in the five-person playoff for the remaining state finals spots.
For the Patriots, the performance had Schum gushing. The Heritage Hills coach “knew going in that we’d have to have a career day to get out of there and we put in a good effort,” he said. But the elation brought about by the pair of 73s, as well as the play of Evan Braun (84), Alec Meunier (85) and Alex Gordon (87), who were all playing at regional for the first time, meant even more.
“Going into the year, I never even dreamed of the shot to compete at this level of regional. It wasn’t even on my radar,” Schum said. “When I wrap my head around (their performance), it’s amazing to me.”
Despite two double-bogeys, Van Winkle “just gutted it out, which he’s been doing all year long,” his coach said. Teaford managed up-and-downs seemingly all round long, tallying a scant 26 putts in his round. After Braun struggled for parts of the season, Schum said, the senior “put together one of his best rounds of the year,” and Meunier, a sophomore playing in just the second 18-hole match of his career, barely blinked, his coach said.
“I told the guys at the tournament today, two years ago we advanced to the state. That was the first time Heritage Hills had ever done that and it was obviously very enjoyable,” Schum said. “This team, I was just as proud of as I was that one.”
Despite the exit, Jasper coach Steve Milligan held his squad in similar regard. The coda for seniors Cam Weyer and Jacob Bartley was undoubtedly “an emotional time,” Milligan said of the duo that helped the Wildcats claim fourth place in the state finals last year and third in 2012. “There was so much put on them today because they felt like they had to hit every shot,” Milligan said.
“I just feel honored to coach these two boys,” he continued. “They’ve got two medals in their four years of high school, and right now, they’re disappointed, but they should be thrilled to death about that.”
Reid Lorey found a feel for the greens and piloted the Wildcats with a 77, while Weyer bagged a 78 and Bartley nabbed an 82. Freshman Carson Pierce kicked in an 86 for the Cats, while Alex Korn, who earned a spot in the regional lineup after sitting out the sectional, rounded out Jasper’s scorecard with a 96.
What made it tough for Milligan was seeing the anguish on his players’ faces. He saw it with Weyer after the senior missed a putt on 14 after birdying the previous hole.
“After the round, he said, ‘Steve, I was just trying to do my best,’” Milligan recalled of Weyer. “And that’s all I can ask for.
“They accomplished so much. And this year, they accomplished so much not knowing what was in front of them,” Milligan added, alluding to the loss of the Cats’ top two golfers from a year ago.
From Gray’s practice round Wednesday with Southridge coach Brock Matthews and classmate Beau Schneider to a comically indelible hazard save on hole No. 16 Thursday, the Raider senior’s fourth regional experience in as many years provided a platter of memories.
Gray said “nothing really went the right way” during a round in which he saw one putt after another lip out or come within an inch or two of changing his round’s trajectory. The Raider senior had a good look on No. 9 to go 1-under on the front, but the 15-foot putt straight up a hill was pulled ever so slightly, then Gray said he “lost a little confidence” on the next three holes when shots on the green continued missing slightly.
Yet unlike last year, when his college career remained a mystery, knowing he’s got more golf ahead of him gave the University of Evansville recruit some solace after coming up short of his second consecutive state finals appearance.
“It’ll work. I knew it’s just high school golf,” he said. “It’s fine if I didn’t make it.”
He made sure to produce a memory before wrapping things up though, as Gray pulled a 2-iron off the 16th tee that struck Schneider on the leg instead of finding its way into a water hazard.
“It one-hopped him, he’s good,” Gray joked. “He took one for the team.”
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