GREENFIELD — No one left Arrowhead Golf Course early Monday afternoon. Not without taking their cut at the improbable drive.
“Elijah’s showing off,” Mt. Vernon’s Will Dant remarked playfully as he stood alongside fellow senior Oliver Mast near the driving range.
With a forward chip-shot assist from his older brother, Xavier Dunham, who volleyed the ball from a few steps behind, Elijah, a freshman, swung with maximum torque as he smashed the ball with his driver in midair.
His teammates let out a celebratory cheer as his ball lined and sliced down the range.
Mast and Dant, who perfectly executed the trick-shot a few weeks earlier on video that has since spread across social media, nodded in approval.
The duo had the same expression as their final team score came in against rival Greenfield-Central. The Marauders defeated the visiting Cougars 144-201, a season-best nine-hole tally for Mt. Vernon on its home course.
“That’s exciting. This is only our third nine-hole match this year. A goal of ours is probably 140, which puts us dead even on this front side. That’s definitely obtainable,” Mast said. “140 is a good goal, but 144 is the best we’ve ever played in a match score in the four years I’ve been here.”
During practice, the team has shot sub-140 on the front nine at Arrowhead several times, and as Mast noted, if each varsity golfer’s best score was accounted from those sessions, the total would hover near 135.
“I think we should build off of this and take it as our hard work is maybe starting to pay off,” Mast said.
Putting in extra training this past winter was the norm for the Marauders, and the numbers reveal their ingrained muscle memory.
Dant, a state qualifier last spring, was medalist against Greenfield-Central with a career-best 33 at 2-under par on the course. The Indiana Tech recruit birdied the third and seventh holes while recording pars the rest of the way.
“Last year’s regional really drives us. Obviously, how we missed out. It motivates us in bigger 18-hole events and even these nine-hole matches,” Dant said.
Part of last season’s group that came up three strokes short of a team state finals berth at regional, Dant and the other three returners are never content, Mt. Vernon head coach Tyler Wilson emphasized.
“Even 33 out of Will, I’m sure he can find a couple of shots he would want back, just like Oliver’s 35,” Wilson said. “Never being satisfied is the key.”
Mast’s 35 unfolded with two birdies, one bogey on the third hole and six pars.
This season, Mast turned in a 33 in a nine-hole match on the road at Pendleton Heights on April 2, and he fired a 31 at 4-under par at Arrowhead in a three-way with Lapel and Yorktown on April 17.
The Marauders overall haven’t lost an event other than a seventh-place finish at the Center Grove Invitational with a 335 at Hickory Stick Golf Club on April 15.
Mt. Vernon opened the season with a first-place showing at the Yorktown Invitational on April 8 at The Players Club, and are 3-0 in nine-hole matches.
“Matches like today, it builds confidence for them right now,” Wilson said. “I think they’re just competing against themselves right now and each other. They’re playing the golf course and not necessarily the guy next to them. They all want to get better.”
Xavier Dunham, a junior, continues to gain on both Dant and Mast, a state qualifier in 2015. Dunham carded a 36 against Greenfield-Central and was medalist at the Mt. Vernon Invitational at Arrowhead this past Saturday.
“If you go back to the Center Grove Invite, take two holes out of that mix, and he’s right alongside those guys at a top 10 or 12 in the event,” Wilson said. “He’s really close to competing with those two every day.”
With the upperclassmen out due to prom this weekend, Dunham led the Marauders with a 76 through 18 holes as the team won their own invite with a score of 343.
“We were there to support and coach them through a little bit, but still it was big for them to come through and play great,” Dant said. “It’s good to have that if one of us is out.”
Elijah Dunham, who shot an 83 on Saturday, turned in a 41 on Monday. Junior Max Heitman shot a 40.
Greenfield-Central, which doesn’t have a single senior in its lineup, was led by sophomore Kyle Arrowood at 44. Sophomore Noah Mohler finished at 49.
“We’re young this year. We have one junior, three sophomores and the rest are freshmen. Everyone is playing with a lot of integrity and putting the time in, but we’re young,” Cougars head coach Jeremy Spencer said. “We’re not quite where we want to be yet, but as far as county, I think we’ll show up with a solid representation.”
The Marauders are ready to defend their crown during the county tournament this Tuesday, which has been shortened from 18 to nine holes. Beforehand the team travels to Sheridan on Wednesday and Hamilton Southeastern on Thursday before hosting rival New Palestine on Monday.
Yet, county is the first goal on their to-do list, which includes repeating at sectional. The only question is what to wear to a potential eighth straight county championship stroll on the course.
“We’ve talked about doing maybe old western cowboys, and we’ve talked about going way back to the 1980s,” said Dant, who sported Hawaiian beach threads with his teammates for last year’s tournament victory. “We have some stuff up our sleeves.”
“In all honesty, county is a very laid back event for us. It was last year, and it will be again,” Mast added. “For all of us, at the end of the day, the one thing we’re focused on is finishing matches. Whether nine or 18, knowing your number but not thinking about it, and just playing golf and finishing is more important, then fixating on a number.”
Mt. Vernon 144, Greenfield-Central 201
Medalist: Will Dant, Mt. Vernon 33
Mt. Vernon: Will Dant 33, Oliver Mast 35, Xavier Dunham 36, Max Heitman 40, Elijah Dunham 41.
Greenfield-Central: Noah Mohler 49, Kyle Arrowood 44, Jordan Wray 51, Nolan Jones 57, Isaac Baker 58.