Members of the Center Grove High School boys golf team must endure a long drive before hitting their own.
After winning last week’s Southport Sectional by seven shots ahead of their closest competitor, the Trojans travel 83 miles south to play in Thursday’s Providence Regional.
This marks the fourth consecutive season Center Grove has played in a regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville, located 20 miles north of Louisville.
The Trojans previously finished fifth (2013) and second (2014) before securing the fifth regional title in the program’s history a year ago.
Expected to provide the most resistance to the state’s top-ranked squad at Champions Pointe Golf Club are Perry Meridian, Franklin Community, Bloomington South, Columbus East and Bedford North Lawrence.
And, naturally, the course itself.
“It’s fairly wooded and a little tighter than some courses,” said sophomore Sam Jean, the Trojans’ No. 3 player who carded a 37-34—71 at the Southport Sectional hosted by The Legends Golf Club in Franklin.
“Playing there definitely makes you use different clubs off the tee, but I think we feel prepared and ready to go.”
With a top-three finish, Center Grove would qualify for the June 14 and 15 IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.
Last year’s Center Grove squad finished runner-up to Westfield by four shots (584 to 588) at the same venue in the state finals.
Falling short of its objective by so few shots served at the team’s motivation through this regular season.
Center Grove posted three of the top five scores at sectional, led by junior Ethan Shepherd’s 34-36—70 and sophomore Noah Gillard’s 40-32—72. Seniors Tyler Rankel and Jackson Williams, the Nos. 4 and 5 players, respectively, came through with scores of 78 and 74.
A year ago the Trojans finished eight shots ahead of Bloomington South at Champions Pointe with a 290 before going on to finish second in the state finals the following week.
“(Champions Pointe) is kind of a combination of a links-style course and a tradition-style course,” Center Grove coach Jim Williams said. “It’s built through a housing development. Our kids really like playing there.”
Also competing will be the team from Franklin Community, coming off of a third-place finish at the Southport Sectional.
Low scores for the Grizzly Cubs belonged to Javen Johnson’s 72, while Kodi Duncan and Blake Andrews each had a 76.
It’s tradition at Franklin to play Champions Pointe during the preseason in March as a method of team bonding while familiarizing players with the course should they be playing on at regional.
First-year Cubs coach Chris Kacarab said his team, despite being unranked in the coach’s poll, is capable of being among the contenders.
“I was really happy with how we played at sectional, but we can go lower than that,” Kacarab said. “The expectation now is that we’re not content to just go through the motions. We want to compete.
“If we play well, we should be competing for a chance to advance.”
IF YOU GO
When: 8 a.m. Thursday
Where: Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville
Advancement to state finals: Top three teams plus 5 low individuals, excluding those individuals who advance with a team. Ties for fifth place must be played off in order to advance.