Center Grove boys golf coach Jim Williams has an expression he uses when describing the role of the nonstarters on the state’s top-ranked team:
Iron sharpens iron.
Nine of the 12 players on Williams’ roster sport 18-hole stroke averages between 72 and 77. The others are in the low-80s.
But only five can start.
A good problem to have if you’re the second-year coach. But a choice nonetheless.
“You feel for them. Those kids can go anywhere else and be their No. 1 player. Even though they’re not out on the course playing in the state finals, they’ve got just as much invested in it as what the other kids do,” Williams said.
Led by seniors Hayden Martin and Ben Surface, the second tier of Trojans golfers also features juniors Jack Williams, Tyler Rankel, Cameron Milhoff and Jacob McCarty, along with freshman Sam Jean.
Their role today — and perhaps during Wednesday’s final round — at Prairie View Golf Course in Carmel is to walk the course and encourage those trying to bring Center Grove its first state title in boys golf.
For Surface, the team’s lone left-handed player, it’s an opportunity to soak up the concluding moments of his high school career.
Surface will be attending Indiana University in the fall, majoring in business, but no longer playing golf competitively.
He has no regrets.
“It’s still fun. Everybody likes to be competitive. Everyone’s out there trying to make everyone else better. You still have your role on the team. Everybody here knows there’s someone right behind you ready to take your spot,” Surface said.
Rankel and Jack Williams, who both have one more season of high school eligibility remaining, know they could be in Center Grove’s top five a year from now.
At the same time, because it’s Center Grove with its deep feeder system, nothing is guaranteed.
“It’s kind of been like this since middle school. I grew up playing with these guys, and it’s not really frustrating because we go play varsity tournaments, too. So we’re playing good competition when they’re playing good competition,” said Williams, the coach’s son.
“There’s no frustration. I think the best thing about it is that since we’re all friends, yeah, we’re competitive on the course, but after the course it’s over. We’re really strong with that top five, so it’s going to be really hard to break into it.”
Like the others, Rankel takes pride in his role on the team. His golf skills and those of the remaining nonstarters better the product as a whole.
Iron sharpening iron.
“It makes us better just trying to fight for a spot every day at practice. I think of it as trying to improve every day. While I try to improve the other guys will want to improve, too,” Rankel said.
Some close to the Center Grove program are wondering what would happen if the so-called “B” squad was allowed to participate in the state finals today.
Would a top 10 finish be possible?
With iron sharpening iron, Jean knows such discussion won’t be ending anytime soon.
“It’s really nice to have people to push you to make yourself better. Next year it will still be hard to crack the lineup because we have a lot of good freshmen coming in,” Jean said.