Valiantly as Center Grove tried, there simply was no catching Westfield at the IHSAA Boys State Golf Finals.
Runners-up to the Shamrocks at last season’s meet at Prairie View Golf Club, the Trojans settled for third place after Wednesday’s final round at Prairie View Golf Club.
Westfield, with a team score of 581, held off Hamilton County rival Hamilton Southeastern. The Royals, who started the day six shots behind, got as close as three but finished four back with a 585.
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Center Grove, led by sophomore Noah Gillard’s 36-hole score of 70-69—139, posted a final tally of 592.
Gillard’s outstanding play despite numerous distractions — two weather delays each day stopped play for a sum of 9 hours, 17 minutes — earned him second place individually.
Hamilton Southeastern senior Cedric McAree provided the low score overall with a 7-under-par 137.
“I just told myself to keep strong and not get out of it mentally,” Gillard said of delays, the final one Wednesday lasting for 3 hours, 43 minutes before play finally resumed at 7:15 p.m.
“I just had to stay focused picturing every shot. I told the other guys we were going to play, so stay mentally prepared. I definitely don’t want to be out here for like 12 hours, but the time I get to spend with these guys is always awesome. Always a fun time.”
Junior Ethan Shepherd tied Westfield sophomore Andrew Lewis for 20th overall with his score of 73-78—151. Center Grove soph Sam Jean tied three others for 22nd (77-75—152). Jackson Williams (80-74—154) and Tyler Rankel (76-83—159), the lone seniors in the Trojans lineup, also finished in the top 50 individually.
Williams, Center Grove’s No. 5 golfer, produced four birdies in his final round of high school golf.
The Franklin College-bound senior shot a 2-over 74 to atone for the disappointing 80 he scored in Tuesday’s first round.
“I hit a lot more greens. (Tuesday) I hit three greens and today I hit 12 or 13. I was hitting greens and I got off to a really hot start and made a lot of birdies,” Williams said. “I kind of fizzled out, but then I got it together on the back nine.”
Williams, the son of Trojans coach Jim Williams, waited patiently for his turn in the starting lineup.
It was worth it, he said,.
“This year was pretty great. I wouldn’t do it any other way. This was well worth the wait,” he said. “Playing for your dad is definitely interesting at times. But it was good. I was glad to finish this year with him.”
Rankel, who also broke into coach Williams’ starting five for the first time in what was his final season, made it a point not to take any moment of these past few months for granted.
“These were two of the longest days on the golf course I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. But it was nine hours we got to spend with our teammates for the last time,” Rankel said. “We definitely could have played better both days, but we’re proud of what we accomplished this year.”
Gillard, Shepherd and Jean return next season to give Center Grove a strong nucleus around which to remain one of the state’s best teams next spring. Freshmen Logan Anderson and Luke DeHaven, both of whom gained valuable varsity experience this season, will be challenged by other talented underclassmen wanting to break into the top five.
“We’ll be very good,” Gillard said. “We’re losing Tyler and Jackson, who are keys to this team, but we have Luke and Logan back and possible a couple of (incoming freshmen), so we’ll see.
“We’ll be very strong again next year.”