The margin of victory was considerably slimmer than it had been at some tournaments this year, but Center Grove boys golf coach Matt Rodman will still take it.
The host Trojans used their superior depth to emerge victorious in Monday’s sectional tournament at Hickory Stick, coming in with a total of 288 to finish eight strokes ahead of runner-up Franklin.
Those two squads, along with third-place Perry Meridian, advance to Thursday’s Providence Regional at Champions Pointe.
“I’m still very proud of my team,” Rodman said. “You can’t take any winning of a sectional for granted. I’m proud of how they played and how they grinded it out today.”
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Center Grove was the only team able to put together four rounds in the 70s; the Trojans actually had all five of their players shoot 76 or lower.
Sophomore Luke DeHaven, the team’s nominal No. 4 player, was the lowest of those five with an even-par 71.
“I was hitting my driver really well and hit my irons good,” DeHaven said. “I didn’t really putt that great, but I got the ball in the hole somehow.”
Noah Gillard and Ethan Shepherd each added a 72 for the Trojans, while Sam Jean finished his round at 73.
Franklin, which had finished 38 shots behind Center Grove at last week’s county tournament, was considerably closer Monday. Matt Jordan steered the way for the Grizzly Cubs with a 70, second individually in the field behind Nick Osterburg of Perry Meridian (67).
“(My wedges) were kind of dialed in on the back; I made three birdies coming in,” Jordan said. “I just played smart golf. I knew that’s what it would take to help the team get out.”
Jordan got plenty of help from Javan Johnson and Emerson Downing, each of whom shot a 73. Blake McIntire rounded out the Franklin scoring with an 80.
Greenwood finished fifth with a total of 316. The Woodmen were led by a strong round from junior Eric Moenkhaus, who qualified for the regional as an individual with a 71.
“My driver was a little squirrely, but I was hitting the greens even though I wasn’t in the fairway very often,” Moenkhaus said. “I just kept hitting greens and getting the putts close to the hole.”
Hayden Borges-Hardesty also made it into the regional for Greenwood, firing a 76, while Jaden Hornbeak missed advancing by one shot with a 77.
Whiteland placed eighth with a total of 373. The Warriors were followed closely by Indian Creek, which finished at 382.
Roncalli placed fourth with a team score of 311. The Rebels were led by Evan Wray, who locked up an individual regional berth with a 75.
The advancing teams and individuals will face an even tougher field on Thursday, so Rodman isn’t as concerned about margins right now as he is about survival.
“The name of the game for these sectionals and regionals is getting to state,” he said, “and then there it’s a whole different ballgame.”