Junior helps fortunes swing on hole No. 9

For a brief moment, it appeared as though the Center Grove boys golf team was experiencing the worst kind of déjà vu.

After playing Prairie View’s ninth hole at 9 over par on Tuesday and spotting Carmel a six-stroke lead heading into the final round, the Trojans began experiencing a familiar nightmare on that same hole Wednesday.

First, a double bogey. Then a bogey. Then, junior Sam Jean — who had blown up for a 9 on the par-4, 415-yarder on his first go-round — flirted with water hazard disaster yet again.

But then a funny thing happened. Jean’s ball stayed dry, stopping just short of rolling back into the drink. The junior got up and down to save par, and he proceeded to birdie five holes on the back side, carding a round of 66 to help Center Grove to its first-ever state golf title.

“That felt really good, especially after what happened yesterday, to be able to keep it under control,” Jean said of his par save on 9. “It was just a good momentum booster.”

Jean went fully thermonuclear after making the turn. He notched birdies on the 11th, 12th and 13th holes to help give Center Grove its first lead of the tournament.

He then added two more on 16 and 17, effectively slamming the door shut on any comeback hopes that Carmel may have been harboring.

“I just tried to be patient,” Jean said. “I felt like I hit the ball really well on the front nine; there were just a few putts that could have fallen for me, and I knew that they’d start falling if I kept hitting them close. I just had to be patient.”

It wasn’t just Jean that managed to avoid a repeat of Tuesday’s meltdown on the ninth. Ethan Shepherd, who had double-bogeyed the hole during the first round, picked up a birdie there Wednesday.

Center Grove was still 2 over on the hole, but it actually made up ground — three Carmel players bogeyed the ninth.

In fact, the Trojans made up seven shots on the Greyhounds between holes 6 and 9, trimming what had been an eight-shot margin down to one heading to the back nine.

From that point on, nobody really stood a chance. Center Grove’s top four players played the second half of the course at 4 under par, capping a 19-shot swing and a dominating victory.

The key to the closing surge, though, might have been what didn’t happen on No. 9.

“We were able to get through 9 relatively unscathed today compared to what we did (Tuesday),” Center Grove coach Matt Rodman said.