Ethan Shepherd refers to Indiana University as his dream school when it comes to continuing his academic and golfing careers.

Noah Gillard and Erica Shepherd use the same words to describe their college choices.

This past fall, all three Center Grove students let it be known where they would be playing Division I golf.

A senior, Ethan Shepherd signed his national letter of intent in November. Gillard, a junior who in September made a verbal commitment to the University of Illinois, can’t officially sign with the Illini until next November.

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Meanwhile, sophomore Erica Shepherd, Ethan’s sister and one of the country’s most-coveted talents, plans to eventually enroll at Duke University to play for longtime Blue Devils women’s golf coach Dan Brooks.

Ethan Shepherd and Gillard were the top two players for Center Grove last season as it placed third in the State Finals at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.

Gillard’s two-day score of 70-69—139 (5 under par) placed him second individually behind Hamilton Southeastern senior Cedric McAree (7-under). Shepherd’s 73-78—151 positioned him in a tie for 20th place with Andrew Lewis of Westfield.

Their return, along with that of last season’s No. 3 player, junior Sam Jean, makes the Trojans a strong contender for another run at a team title this spring.

Shepherd made a verbal commitment to IU in July, selecting the Hoosiers over Ball State and Dayton.

“It’s (IU’s) The Kelley School of Business being so highly regarded, and playing in the Big Ten Conference,” Shepherd said. “I always envisioned myself playing there because that’s where my dad went.”

Gillard considered scholarship offers from Purdue, Ball State, Ohio State and Indiana before making it known in September he would be golfing for Illinois beginning the 2018-19 school year.

“What sold me is that I really like the coaches, and the practice facility there is just amazing,” Gillard said. “It’s always been kind of my dream school. I just thought Illinois would be a great fit for me.”

Erica Shepherd gained national attention in July when she participated in the 71st U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, California, as a 15-year-old.

Committing to become a student-athlete at Duke means Shepherd will follow in the footsteps of former Blue Devil Leigh Anne Hardin, a close family friend.

Hardin is a 2000 graduate of Martinsville High School, where she led the Artesians to four consecutive girls golf championships (1996-99). She secured individual medalist honors at the state finals as a sophomore, junior and senior.

Shepherd, who does not compete for the girls team at Center Grove, verbally committed on September 21 at the conclusion of a visit to the Duke campus. She chose the Blue Devils over Stanford.

“Duke has always been my dream school. I have a picture of me in a Duke cheerleading uniform when I was about 2 years old,” Shepherd said. “I visited close to 10 schools and then narrowed it down to two.”

Where they're headed

Ethan Shepherd, Indiana University (2017): Under 18th-year head coach Mike Mayer, the Hoosiers have made 13 NCAA appearances with 27 All-Big Ten Conference players and seven All-Americans.

Noah Gillard, University of Illinois (2018): Led by 17th-year head coach Mike Small, the Illini have been Big Ten Conference champions seven of the last eight years and had the individual medalist at the NCAA championships in 2010 and 2012. The team is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation.

Erica Shepherd, Duke University (2019): This is Dan Brooks’ 33rd season as head coach. He’s led the Blue Devils to six NCAA championships (1999, 2002, 2005-07 and 2014) and 18 Atlantic Coast Conference titles. Duke is currently ranked No. 16 in the nation.

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