CARMEL — Mt. Vernon’s Oliver Mast would be the first to admit it: He’s never satisfied.
Minutes after shooting a respectable 6-over-par 78 at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel on Indiana high school boys golf’s largest stage, the sophomore was brutally honest with himself.
He refused to overlook the miscues. He wasn’t going to let them slide.
“The front nine, I was playing really well. I gave myself opportunities,” Mast remarked following his opening round at the two-day IHSAA golf state finals Tuesday afternoon. “I just couldn’t get any putts to fall. On the back nine, I got a few birdies, but I kept giving everything back.
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“The big thing for me was my putting. It was terrible. It’s what killed me almost every hole.”
Through the front nine, Mast kept himself atop the tournament’s leaderboard with a 2-over-par, carrying a score of 38 behind seven pars and two bogeys.
Just three strokes off his regional front-nine pace of 35 and two more than his sectional count at 36, he made his push on the turn into the course’s back nine.
Mast parred the 10th hole and birdied the 369-yard 11th on three swings to pull him within one stroke of par for the course.
“We had a good game plan in place. He knew what he wanted to do and where to place the ball,” Mt. Vernon head coach Caleb Zelencik said. “The problem just came with a couple of errant shots that cost him too many extra strokes here and there.
“He just couldn’t get that long putt to roll in. He was burning edges.”
His rhythm fell out of line as well, beginning on the 12th hole as tournament play log jammed ahead of Mast’s group.
“We ran into trouble and stoppage of play. Every hole we were waiting around 15 minutes per tee box, but that’s no excuse,” Mast said. “I’d get a birdie and then give it back the next hole.”
Double bogeying on 12, Mast birdied the next hole but lost ground with bogeys on 14 and 15 before back-to-back pars.
At 4-over-par, Mast nearly dropped a birdie putt on 17 to get back at 3-over, but the green played firm, halting his ball’s rotation right on the cup’s lip.
“I had about three of those that just missed. Normally, I just bury those. I felt like it was the same story as regional, but there my score was better,” Mast said.
At regional last week, Mast qualified for state by shooting a tournament-best 73 at The Players Club in Muncie, eventually sharing medalist runner-up honors.
There, putting proved problematic, Mast said after he narrowly missed a medalist-winning birdie putt on the first of two playoff holes and let a handful of birdies slip away during regulation play.
“If you can’t get one to drop, it just keeps creeping in your mind that you can’t make a putt,” Zelencik said. “It didn’t help today that the guys he was playing with were running in some putts. That can compound your thinking.”
“But he was hitting a lot of nice putts early. Two hitting for par, but it’s when you don’t hit that one for birdie that you really want, it can weigh on you.”
Frustration reached its pinnacle on 18, Mast said. In his first state appearance, he let the moment overwhelm him slightly, leading to a double bogey.
“The last hole killed me. I pretty much decommitted every shot, which is something I’ve tried not to do; swing with confidence,” Mast said. “I let that one go. I had two penalty strokes, which is something you can’t do out here. If you want to contend, you can’t penalty and three-putt, which I did today both times.”
Despite the troublesome back nine, Mast ended the state finals’ first day tied with nine other golfers for 41st out of 100 all vying for state medals.
At 78, he sits one stroke back of Bishop Chatard’s Nick Williams (77), who was co-runner-up at regional with him. Regional co-champions Keegan Bronnenberg (70) and Hamilton Southeastern’s Nick Kuster (75) aren’t out of reach either.
“The thing is he has another day. You live to fight again,” Zelencik said. “That’s what I really like about this format. It’s not one day, you don’t perform, and you’re done. He has another day, and I think the pressure is off a little bit. Now, he can just go out and play and maybe put some pressure on the guys ahead of him.”
Pinpointing his putts with coach Zelencik on the practice green before either one left the course Tuesday, Mast is confident he will rebound quickly with sharper precision, especially with the opening-day jitters behind him.
“It was somewhat nerve-racking. It has a different feel to it. I don’t want to say you try too hard, but you definitely focus more, which sometimes gets you out of your routine. I feel like I did that a couple of times,” he said.
“It was a good confidence-building round. I now know what to expect a little bit more. I can trust it. … you can lose a tournament on one hole, but you can’t win a tournament on one hole. I lost it on 18, but tomorrow with experience gained, we’ll put together a good round.”
Mast-ering the Course
Oliver Mast’s hole-by-hole results (Day 1)
at Prairie View Golf Club
To Par; E;E;E;E;+1;+1;+1;+1;+2;+2
To Par; +2;+1;+3;+2;+3;+4;+4;+4;+6;+4;+6
Day 1: IHSAA Golf State Finals Team Standings
3. Center Grove;298
4. Fort Wayne Dwenger;302
5. Hamilton Southeastern;306
6. Columbia City;310
7. Bloomington South;311
12. Harrison (West Lafayette);322
13. Oak Hill;325
14. Floyd Central;335
Day 1: Individual Leaderboard
1. Spencer Klimek, Columbia City;68
T2. Austin Crowder, Center Grove;70
T2. Drew Wood, Zionsville;70
T2. Keegan Bronnenberg, Muncie Central;70
T5. Joe Weiler, Bloomington South;71
T5. Zach Schroeder, Lebanon;71
T5. Cole Bradley, Harrison (West Lafayette);71
T5. Thomas Lewis, Westfield;71
T9. Callahan Elzey, FW Dwenger;72
T9. Michael Lee, Crown Point;72
T9. Josh Keating, Noblesville;72