Top-ranked Center Grove has some ground to make up after completing the opening round of the IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals on Tuesday at Prairie View Golf Club.

Second-year Trojans coach Jim Williams said he thinks the team is in a good position for today’s final round.

Center Grove shot a team score of 298, three strokes behind defending finals runner-up Westfield. Zionsville is second in the 15-team standings with a score of 297.

“It was a rugged day to say the least. The course played awfully tough. To be honest with you, by our standards, I don’t think we played particularly well as a team, but we’re right there in the thick of things,” Williams said.

“We’re only three strokes off, so we’ve got a shot at it. We know we’re a team that can go low out here.”

Throughout most of the opening round, Center Grove, Westfield and Zionsville jockeyed for first place.

Leading Center Grove was senior Austin Crowder, who started the day with a red-hot putter and through nine holes was 4-under par.

He finished with a 2-under-par 70.

“I hit my first four greens, and that really got me going. I had two birdie putts inside of five feet and missed them both. But then I ran off four birdies over the next five holes,” Crowder said.

“After that I started getting a little wild off the tee. It’s tough to keep that going, especially on a course where it got hotter as the day wears on. Overall, I think we’re right where we want to be as a team. We’ll go into this second day with a different mindset.”

Freshman Noah Gillard was a 1-under or even par most of the day but bogeyed the final two holes to finish with a 2-over-par 74.

“The course sets up really well for me. I played really well until the final two holes. It’s always a challenge playing a tough course, and it’s easy to make a big number out here, but you can (score) low, too,” Gillard said.

“Being three back is something than can be made up in one hole. I’m happy where we are.”

Senior Zack Carrabine, who’s been another steady hand since the state tournament began two weeks ago at sectional, came home with a 75.

“I thought the back nine played a lot tougher. I was in the sand a lot. I hit some good sand saves and not so good shots. I think we’ll be ready to go after we get some sleep,” Carrabine said.

Williams, who coaches both boys and girls golf teams at Center Grove, said the quest for a state championship is still very real.

“We’ve got to sell them on the fact that there’s just one day left and they’ve got a chance, which is something a year ago we wanted (sixth place). We’re where we want to be and we have a chance to do something about it,” Williams said.

The individual leader of the two-day tournament is Spencer Klimek of Columbia City at 68. Muncie Central’s Keegan Bronnenburg, Zionsville’s Drew Wood and Crowder all are two shots back at 70.

Tied for 22nd overall is Franklin Community High School senior Jake Hash, an individual state qualifier. Hash fired a 39-36 — 75.

Coming off the course, he wore a big smile.

“It’s a real honor to represent my school and my community. The greens today were rolling beautifully, so everything had good lines,” Hash said.

“Having played a practice round the previous day really helped. It told me what bunkers I could clear and what fairways I would have to lay up in my approach to the greens.”

Grizzly Cubs coach Curt Holcroft, who also coaches both boys and girls teams, was ecstatic about his player’s performance.

“He’s a real competitor, and he played some solid golf most of the day with a couple of hiccups along the way,” he said.

“We joke all the time that he has ice in his veins. He keeps even-keeled and maintains a good tempo and a good steadiness to his game. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.”

Hash will tee off today at 8 a.m. while Center Grove will begin at 9:21 a.m.