Center Grove familiar with finals course

Today is the third time this season Center Grove’s boys golf team has played a tournament at Prairie View Golf Club.

Add the occasional practice round, and the top-ranked Trojans are well-versed when it comes to the 18-hole layout in Carmel.

Coach Jim Williams hopes such familiarity benefits his program as it sets its sights on bringing home Center Grove’s first boys state golf championship today and Wednesday.

“We play the conference tournament there. We played the spring showcase there,” Williams said. “We’ll practice there (on Monday). Whenever we can get there we jump on the opportunity.

“But when it comes down to it you have to make the shots in as few strokes as possible.”

Center Grove did on May 7, winning the State Preview against 17 other programs — including six of today’s state finalists — with a score of 289. Nine days later the Trojans returned to Prairie View and carded a 292 to win the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference Meet by 10 shots against runner-up Carmel.

Sophomore No. 1 player Noah Gillard and the Trojans’ No. 2, junior Ethan Shepherd, played in last year’s state finals. The bottom portion of the lineup has used events this season to better familiarize themselves with Prairie View.

“I would say just getting the ball in play off the tee is important, and I’ve heard the rough is pretty bad up there,” said senior Tyler Rankel, who played in the No. 4 spot for the Trojans at the sectional and regional. “It’s important we get good tee shots to set us up for good approaches.

“It’s just about having fun out there. We’ve got a lot of good players on this team. As long as we’ve got the best five guys out there playing and we can post a good score, I’m happy with it.”

Prairie View’s layout combined with how fast (or slow) foursomes are playing will determine if Center Grove’s veteran players are able to provide advice to their teammates.

Williams hopes they can.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to talk to the other ones and let them know we just have to go play golf and, yes, this is another tournament,” he said.

“At the end, maybe we can celebrate a little bit more. Hopefully as the state champs.”

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