Positions at stake when Center Grove practices

Center Grove’s top-ranked boys golf team approaches every practice as its own competition.

Whether players are lining up putts at Dye’s Walk Country Club or Hickory Stick Golf Course, coach Jim Williams examines scores for trends and acts accordingly.

The five players playing the best will represent Center Grove at whichever event is next on the schedule.

Next up for the Trojans is Thursday’s Providence Regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville.

Williams figures he’ll know who his five players will be about 12 hours before the match.

“By going this way we find out who’s hot and who plays well on certain courses,” Williams said. “It keeps the players interested in practice instead of just going out and playing.”

Starters on the 2015 state runner-up team, Noah Gillard and Ethan Shepherd, have been locks, respectively, at Nos. 1 and 2. Sophomore Sam Jean, after starting the season in the fifth spot, has moved up to No. 3.

The bottom of the Trojans’ lineup will consist of two of the following five players: seniors Tyler Rankel, Jackson Williams and Jacob McCarty along with freshmen Luke DeHaven and Logan Anderson.

Center Grove practiced Monday at Dye’s Walk, is scheduled to play Hickory Stick today and is going to test Champions Pointe at some point Wednesday.

Coach Williams then will decide his five for the regional.

Impressive team depth combined with the Trojans’ desire to claim the program’s first state championship led Williams to adopt this philosophy.

It might not be what every high school golf program does, but it’s what Center Grove does.

“I like it,” Jean said. “It always forces you to play your best, and it definitely helped me improve my game. My short game has improved a lot in the last year.”

A year ago, Jeas was on the outside looking in as the Trojans’ sixth- or seventh option. This season he’s moved up from positions 5 to 4 to 3.

Jackson Williams admitted the Trojans’ approach to practice, while potentially stressful for coaches and players alike, goes a long way toward making Center Grove one of the state’s premier high school programs.

“It definitely keep you on your toes and makes you the best golfer you can possibly be,” he said. “We’re not just competing at tournaments, we’re competing every day in practice. Everyone on the team has been supportive of each other. We’re all friends, and we’re happy for each other when someone does well.

“It’s just wanting to prove yourself. We want to show what our hard work has done.”

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.