GREENFIELD — Life is a beach, or so it seemed for the Mt. Vernon Marauders at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield.
Posting a season-best 18-hole score of 306, the Marauders were as calm as a Bahama breeze during the Hancock County Golf Tournament on Thursday afternoon. And their free spirited camaraderie carried them to a championship finale.
“We just said, let’s have some fun,” Mt. Vernon junior Will Dant remarked on his team’s chemistry. “We came out here yesterday for a practice round, and it was all fun and games, so we said why not do the same thing for county? We went out to the store, got all this Hawaiian gear, and it took our minds off the competition. It made it fun.”
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Each player donned uniquely matched and contrasting summer wear ranging from brown dress socks to tranquil blue bucket hats and Hawaiian shirts. As a result, the Marauders left everything and everyone else blowing in the wind.
All five of their golfers scored 81 or better, and each clinched every spot on the All-Hancock County team to sweep the awards podium. Oliver Mast shot a 2-under 70 to earn his seventh medalist honor this season.
“It’s big, shooting 70, considering early on in the year it was sort of a struggle to just to put together an 18-hole number. Ever since school has been out, I’ve come out here a few times and played, and I’ve shot some low scores,” Mast said. “It’s good to put it all together. It’s exciting.”
Mast, a state qualifier as a sophomore last year, shot a 77 on the same course during the Hoosier Heritage Conference Championships on May 14 for all-conference distinction.
Prior to the team’s final regular-season match, the Marauders posted 18-hole scores as high as 357 at the Batesville Invitational for seventh in May and as low as 312 at their own invitational to win in April.
Their 306 total unfolded at an ideal time with the sectional Monday coming on the same course and defending champion New Castle picked as the favorite. The Trojans shot a 313 a year ago to win sectional while Mt. Vernon posted a 327 for third.
The Marauders have never won a sectional team title.
“We’re loose. We’re ready. We know we’re playing with house money come sectional, but we don’t have the target on our back. We’re hunting New Castle now,” Mast said. “We’re very laid back, but with that, we mean business.”
The proof was in the scores.
Dant carded a 76, finishing 2-over par through the front and back nine. Mast birdied the seventh and 13th holes. Senior Jacob Ault shot an 80, along with sophomore Max Heitman. Xavier Dunham, a sophomore, came in at 81.
“We are definitely playing our best golf, and that’s our goal, trying to get things so we are peaking now,” Mt. Vernon head coach Caleb Zelencik said. “I don’t ever want them to burn out, so I try to give them days off, even though they go and play on their own, but we build off of that to make it more fun for them.”
Winning never gets old either as the Marauders kept Zelencik’s streak alive by claiming the county title in each of his past seven seasons — and beyond.
“It’s a goal every year to win the county and represent Mt. Vernon to the best of our abilities,” Zelencik said. “We’ve been fortunate to have some really good teams. And this team is exceptional.”
Their team score shaved 26 strokes off their combined effort of 332 for second in the HHC — the last 18-hole event they faced at Hawk’s Tail.
“Last week we had practice and everyone clicked. It’s really good to see that, especially coming into June,” Dant said. “For our fifth guy to come in today with an 80 is huge. We’ll try to repeat this on Monday and see if we can’t win it.”
The closest team to the Marauders were the New Palestine Dragons, which took second with a 355. Nick Lyon (84) and Blake Barnette (85) paced the group along with Evan Rejer (89).
The Greenfield-Central Cougars were third at 389 as Clayton Long, a regional qualifier last year, shot an 83. Eastern Hancock was fourth at 430 led by Conner Cross at 101.
“I really wanted this for them,” Zelencik remarked on his team’s tally. “I wanted them to post this score, so they know they can. That’s the thing, thinking you can and actually doing it. Now they’ve seen they can.”
On Monday at 9 a.m., the Marauders are shooting for a repeat, minus their unofficial uniforms.
“Honestly, the guy that didn’t play today, Drew Richter, had the greatest shirt I’ve ever seen,” Mast said. “He claims it’s a real Hawaiian shirt, so I’m going to give it to him. When he walked up today, I gave him a nice handshake.”
2016 Hancock County Golf Tournament
Mt. Vernon 306
New Palestine 355
Eastern Hancock 430
Medalist: Oliver Mast, Mt. Vernon (70)
Oliver Mast, Mt. Vernon
Will Dant, Mt. Vernon
Max Heitman, Mt. Vernon
Jacob Ault, Mt. Vernon
Xavier Dunham, Mt. Vernon
Mt. Vernon: Oliver Mast 70, Will Dant 76, Max Heitman 80, Jacob Ault 80, Xavier Dunham 81.
New Palestine: Blake Barnette 85, Nick Lyon 84, Evan Rejer 89, Elijah Domogala 97, Lucas Swanson 100.
Greenfield-Central: Clayton Long 83, Noah Mohler 96, Zach Archer 103, Kyle Arrowood 107, Nash Boyk 111.
Eastern Hancock: Conner Cross 101, Jait Schultz 102, Kenny Bunnell 108, Cody Young 119, William Harwood 121.