Center Grove boys golf coach Jim Williams can’t forecast how many times his team will play Prairie View Golf Club in the weeks ahead.
Just know it will be as often as possible.
The Carmel-based course makes its debut as host of the Boys State Finals in June.
Returning its top four players from last year’s team that placed sixth at state, the third-ranked Trojans have one goal heading into the season.
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“We do expect to win state. That’s not being cocky because I believe in these seniors and the younger players, too,” said senior Austin Crowder, the team’s No. 1 player the past two seasons.
“Last year we had a good team and high expectation,” Crowder said. “This time we have four guys coming back and two freshmen that are coming in, so we’ll be real deep. If we go out and play the way we’re capable, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Center Grove’s first-day score at last year’s state meet of 310 put it 11 strokes behind eventual state champion Columbus North and seventh in the team standings.
The Trojans played better in the second round with a 302 for a combined score of 612.
Crowder posted a 74 on the final day. The Trojans’ No. 2 player, Christopher Heck, was only a shot back. Zack Carrabine and Hayden Martin carded 81 and 79, respectively.
This senior quartet will be challenged throughout the season by senior Ben Surface and underclassmen such as juniors Tyler Rankel and Jackson Williams, sophomore Ethan Shepherd and freshmen Noah Gillard and Sam Jean.
On March 16, nine Trojans players shot par or better during a front-nine practice round at Dye’s Walk Country Club.
If that’s not jaw-dropping enough, Gillard chipped in three times, had two eagles and finished with a 29.
So much for simplifying coach Williams’ job.
He has the pleasantly unusual task of attempting to select the top five players for a particular meet or invitational when Nos. 6 through 10 are close to being as good.
“We’ll be trending scores and everything competitive,” Williams said. “Last year we did it, and it was a battle every day in practice. That way they had to keep their edge the entire season.
“This is a group that loves to play and put in the work. From that standpoint it’s what’s made it a group you could like instantly.”
Barring rainouts, the Trojans — should they make it back to the June 16 to 17 State Finals — will be prepared, having played a total of 14 Indiana golf courses leading up to that point.
Two events stand out — the State Preview on May 9 at Prairie View and the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference meet there on May 18.
Heck isn’t concerned about Center Grove’s players having never played the course as of yet. After all, it’s only April.
“I have never actually played Prairie View. We’re playing it a couple times this season, so we’ll be ready for it,” said Heck, who last season recorded a score of 75 at the Southport Sectional (Heartland Crossing) and followed it with a 71 at the Providence Regional (Champions Pointe).
“Anything short of a state championship would not be a successful season, but we have to take it one step at a time. You definitely have to stay humble.”
The Trojans’ 2003 squad placed runner-up to Richmond for what stands as the program’s high-water mark to this point.
Improving over that, while not easy, would virtually guarantee that Center Grove liked the View.
Below are the top 10 finishers at the 2014 State Finals and how many of the five golfers return this season:
1. Columbus North (2)
2. Westfield (4)
3. Hamilton SE (3)
4. Carmel (3)
5. Pendleton Heights (2)
6. Center Grove (4)
7. Fort Wayne Dwenger (4)
8. Bloomington South (5)
9. Yorktown (4)
10. NorthWood (3)
2015 Preaseason poll
2;Fort Wayne Dwenger