Pacing back-and-forth along the banks of a pond at Dye’s Walk Country Club, a golfer peers into the water in search of his golf ball.
When he can’t find it, he shakes his head in frustration and walks back to his golf cart. In golf, the water is the last place any golfer wants to be. But when the Center Grove boys golf team finishes a round or a tournament, the pond at Dye’s Walk Country Club is often the only place they want to be.
On the bank of a pond near the first hole at Dye’s Walk, members of the golf team bring their tackle boxes and fishing poles and discuss everything except the game of golf.
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Fishing is their escape. This is where bad shots and poor scores disappear.
At the pond, the only strategy discussed is which bait to use, or which side they should fish from. Nobody mentions the team’s runner-up performance in the state championship last year, or the fact that today and tomorrow will be senior Tyler Rankel’s last rounds as a Trojan.
You can see it on their faces as they lean back, relaxed. Each time they cast their lines into the water, they get further away from the demands of being the No. 1-ranked boys golf team in the state and the pressure of competing for a state championship.
“After a round, it’s just mentally exhausting,” Noah Gillard said. “Fishing just relaxes us.”
Fishing is by no means a superstition of the boys golf team. Nobody believes success depends on sitting on the banks of a pond for a few hours, trying to catch a bass. But if the teammates weren’t getting together — away from the game — guys who didn’t play as well as they wanted would probably just sit at home and dwell on it, Mitchel Sanders said.
Last year, while the team was practicing at Dye’s Walk, Rankel and a few teammates saw a carp in one of the ponds. That inspired them to come back to fish after their round was finished, Rankel said. But it quickly became a regularly occurring team-bonding activity, and soon after, fishing became one of the team’s go-to activities to decompress after a round of golf.
The team always has tried to do something together immediately following a round of golf, whether it be pool-basketball, or going out to eat, Gillard said.
Most people don’t understand how demanding golf really is, Sanders said.
“We always plan something for right after a round so that there’s always something to look forward to when we finish playing,” Sanders said.
“I had a bad day at practice and thought, ‘OK, let’s just get to being together after this.’ I needed to get away from the game or I would have just (stressed) over how I could have played better. People don’t understand how frustrating it is and how hard of a game golf actually is.”
That time away from golf is essential to the team’s success, Center Grove coach Jim Williams said.
Most days, whether for practice or a tournament, the team is on the course for a good five or six hours, Williams said.
Most people don’t realize how good the boys are on the course, Williams said. And their ability to take themselves away from the game, mentally, when off the course is just as good, Williams said.
“They do a lot of things where they’re as far removed from golf as you can get,” Williams said. “On the course, you’re on the competing edge for a long stretch of time. Fishing gives you down time. It’s not the intensity that golf is. You’re just sitting there casting — it’s good relief.”