GREENFIELD — Nine holes was enough, though Mt. Vernon senior Will Dant would have liked nine more.
With the 2017 Hancock County Golf Tournament sliced down from its traditional 18 holes to nine, Dant and the defending champion Marauders had to settle for a brisk stroll at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield on Tuesday afternoon, but it was still plenty to extend their title streak.
“It’s a windy day. It’s cold, and you don’t quite get the warm up you’re used to with nine holes. I came off nine looking to turn it around on the backside, and I was like, ‘wow, I’m done,’” Dant remarked after shooting an uncharacteristic 42. “You want 18 holes, but at the end of the day, a win is a win, even if you don’t play your best.”
A bad day in Dant’s eyes still remains difficult to beat as the Marauders shot a 164 to win their eighth consecutive county team championship. New Palestine was second with a 170, Greenfield-Central was third at 210 and Eastern Hancock was fourth at 223.
The Marauders had three golfers finish on the All-County team’s top-five with senior Oliver Mast claiming his second straight county medalist honor at 35, 1-under par. Dant was fourth best overall, and junior Max Heitman was third at 38.
New Palestine claimed the other two spots with freshman Quinn Dobbins second overall at 38 and Elijah Domogala fifth at 43.
“Obviously, it was reduced to nine holes, which made it a little bit more difficult for us to show our strength through 18 holes, but three of the top five is nice,” Mast said. “I know some of the guys are disappointed in their scores, but we’re very happy.”
The Marauders dressed the part. A year after donning Hawaiian beach threads in their county title quest, the Marauders opted for a patriotic theme, sporting red, white and blue attire and American flag shorts.
“We looked at the weather, and we felt Hawaiian was not appropriate. Last year, it was 80 (degrees) and sunny,” Mast said. “You can’t go wrong with USA. It’s the greatest country in the world, so we said why not?”
As temperatures dipped into the upper 50s and wind gusts reached 36 mph, the Marauders stayed on target despite the impact of the conditions.
Heitman, who lost out to Dobbins for second on the second handicap tiebreaker, fired his second sub-40, shooting a 39 against New Palestine in a dual Monday at Arrowhead Golf Course.
“I had some dumb mistakes yesterday, but I definitely came around today,” Heitman said. “I started off a little rough, but my irons and my drives were good all around.
“It was crazy just how much there were two or three clubs lengths on everything because of the wind and driving way short. I liked it, though. I enjoyed it. I thought it helped me a lot.”
The Dragons’ team score was an improvement from the day before when they posted a 173 in their loss to Mt. Vernon. A big part of their performance, New Palestine head coach Gregg Greene said, is the confidence Dobbins’ continues to gain and Domogala’s adaption to a new swing.
Dobbins carded a 43 against the Marauders in similar weather conditions on Monday.
“He bounced back. He had a hard finish to the round yesterday, so it was nice to see him finish this round off because he was actually doing pretty well yesterday, too,” Greene said. “He understands his game pretty well. I was watching him today and he was very smooth and relaxed and was in his zone. His score proved it.”
Mt. Vernon’s five scores at 50 and below solidified their placement in the county. Junior Xavier Dunham came in at 49 and his brother Elijah, a freshman, had a 50.
“If we wouldn’t have had the experience of playing in the wind before, as far as earlier in the year in multiple matches, it would have been difficult today,” Mast said. “This is something we take pride in as a school, beating the other three teams here. Anytime you can beat those three it’s a good day.”
Retaining their grasp on the county trophy made it a memorable one for Dant and Mast, who will graduate as four-time champions.
“It’s big for me and Oliver to continue to get that four in a row. It will be big for Xavier and Max next year to try to keep it going,” Dant said.
“I really think we can next year,” Heitman added. “Losing Oliver and Will will for sure hurt, but still, we have all our freshman and sophomores coming up. They’re good. They’re not that far away from us. We’ll still be pretty decent and ready to keep it going.”