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Center Grove 11 shots off pace set by Columbus North

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Battling heat, nerves and a challenging course, Day 1 of the IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals didn’t go quite as well as Center Grove had planned.

Fortunately for the Trojans, they have a chance to rebound during today’s final round at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin.

Seventh-ranked Center Grove shot a team score of 310 during Tuesday’s opening round and is in seventh place in the 15-team field.

Leading the way is No. 2 Columbus North with a 299, followed by No. 5 Carmel (302) and No. 1 Hamilton Southeastern (302). No. 6 Fort Wayne Dwenger (305) tied for fourth with No. 10 Pendleton Heights (305), and No. 6 Westfield (306), the defending state champion, is sixth.

Top individuals after Round 1 are Michael VanDeventer of Columbus North and Evansville Central’s Dylan Meyer, who are co-leaders with a 2-under-par 70.

Leading the way for Center Grove with a 1-over par 73 was junior Christopher Heck.

Senior teammate Wes Kennell was next with a 77, followed by junior Austin Crowder with a 78 and junior Zack Carrabine with a 82. Junior Hayden Martin had an 85.

Heck, who has been the most consistent Center Grove player the past two weeks, remained steady the entire day.

“This is a great atmosphere with the best teams in the state here and a big fan base,” Heck said. “The most important thing to keep reminding yourself is to control the nerves. That’s what it’s all about. I got started on the right foot, and that eased the tension a little bit. A bogey here and a birdie there, and I made a lot of pars with two-putts and I just kept grinding.

“I was really hitting my irons well today, and I just kept trying to dial them in with the wind.”

Kennell, who finished 5-over par, is confident the Trojans can successfully regroup and get back into team contention today.

“In this two-day event, we still have a lot of ground to make up,” Kennell said. “If the wind picks up like it did (Tuesday), it’ll be tough. But when it’s calm, I think this team can do a lot of damage.”

By the same token, Kennell expects more of himself in the final round.

“I didn’t hit the ball as well as I would have liked to, but I made a lot of putts today, including a few come-backers, so it was a little up and down, but I grinded through it,” Kennell said. “It’s a total team effort. You can’t just rely on one guy because anything can happen on the golf course.

“I’ve been looking forward to this since sixth grade. It’s an awesome feeling, and I can’t wait to get back out here tomorrow.”

As he watched his team struggle through the opening stages, Center Grove coach Jim Williams was upbeat by day’s end.

“How’s that saying go in the movie ‘Cool Hand Luke?’” Williams said. “’Got to get our mind right.’

“I still believe we can win this. I think we’re pretty fortunate to have a second day ahead of us, I feel like we still have something to prove, and I believe we are a team that can fight back and win it.

“The kids got a taste of the competition. I think if we can go out with a little chip on our shoulder we can hopefully prove ourselves.”

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