YORKTOWN — The weather was ideal for a breakout day at The Players Club, but once again, the leaderboard proved elusive for the Mt. Vernon Marauders.
Eyeing the program’s first potential team state berth during the Muncie Central Golf Regional on Thursday, the Marauders placed ninth overall with a 323 — eight strokes shy of their goal.
“It was a where we thought our best would do, but we didn’t perform our best,” Mt. Vernon’s No. 1 golfer Oliver Mast remarked as the final scores were posted. “The conditions were pretty much optimal to score out here today. It was perfect. I think maybe the moment got the best of us.”
A highly-competitive field did the Marauders no favors as the top-regional spot was easily secured by No. 3 Noblesville with an even-par 288.
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The Millers entered regional with the best sectional score among the 18 competing teams at 288, which they posted at Purgatory Golf Club on Monday.
Noblesville’s Clay Merchant earned medalist honors with a 66 to give the Millers a clean sweep. As the projected front runner, the Millers dominance wasn’t much of a surprise, but Cathedral sliced four strokes off their sectional score to take second at regional with a 311.
Third place was settled by tiebreaker via the fifth golfers’ score, going to Fishers (315), which pushed rival Hamilton Southeastern (315) out of state contention as a group with only the top-three teams advancing.
During last year’s regional, Bishop Chatard won the tournament with a 306 as four teams tallied scores at 310 or less, including Mt. Vernon (309) in fourth. This year only one group — Noblesville — fell under the 310 plateau with Bishop Chatard finishing fifth at 317.
“A 323 is nothing to hang your heads about,” Mast said. “But for some reason, this year, the scores were a tad higher than they have been in the past. Our 323 isn’t a terrible score, but this year a 315 got out. We were right there.”
Mt. Vernon edged New Castle (324) by one stroke in the regional standings, three days after the Trojans shocked the defending champion Marauders at the Greenfield-Central Sectional 309-310 for the title at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield.
Delta, who slipped past the Marauders during the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet last month 311-312, came in at 12th overall with a 341. New Palestine was 14th with a 344.
“It was sort of the year where we caught everybody on the wrong day per say. New Castle played their best round (at sectional). Delta played their best round (at HHC). Cathedral and Fishers played their best round today. And unfortunately, we never played our best round,” Mast said. “You can say 310 was ours, but that’s an expectation out at Hawk’s Tail. Here, if we shot 310, it would have been our good day.”
Mast, a University of Indianapolis recruit, positioned himself for a potential individual state advancement with a team-leading 77 at 5-over par despite having an uncharacteristic performance.
The Mt. Vernon graduate, who qualified for state in 2015, was nearly part of a six-man playoff for the final individual state-qualifying berth until Fishers captured third place.
With the top-five individuals on non-advancing teams moving on to state, Hamilton Southeastern’s Drew Alexander locked up the fifth invite with a 76.
Mast racked up nine pars, a pair of birdies and seven bogeys to go 3-over par through the back nine and 2-over par on his final nine holes.
“For Oliver to be just one off. He really salvaged a 77 today. He hit some shots today he hasn’t seen himself hit in years,” Mt. Vernon head coach Tyler Wilson said. “A 77 was the probably the best number he could have put up today. Other guys would not have come out with the pars and bogeys he was able to get.”
In-coming senior Max Heitman was 9-over par 81 for the Marauders, while classmate Xavier Dunham carded an 82. Freshman John Husar added a 90.
Will Dant, a graduated senior heading to Indiana Tech to continue his golf career, shot an 82. Dant was a state qualifier last year.
Prior to regional, the Marauders recorded an 18-hole score of 316 at The Players Club at the Yorktown Invitational in April.
“Obviously, 323 out of us today wasn’t our best, but I didn’t feel like they buckled under the pressure of a regional,” Wilson said. “We had very few days where we had everyone clicking. We had some individual performances this year that were crazy good, but we just couldn’t get them all together at once.”
Freshman Quinn Dobbins led New Palestine with an 82, while graduated senior Blake Barnette was second-best at 83 for the Dragons. Nick Lyon shot an 88, and Elijah Domogala had a 91. Matt Kelley finished with a 104.
Muncie Central Golf Regional
Team Scores (top-three teams advance to state): Noblesville 288, Cathedral 311, Fishers 315, Hamilton Southeastern 315, Bishop Chatard 317, Hagerstown 321, Richmond 322, Marion 322, Mt. Vernon 323, New Castle 324, Muncie Central 338, Delta 341, Bellmont 343, New Palestine 344, Jay County 352, Oak Hill 355, Centerville 356, Heritage Christian 363.
Medalist: Clay Merchant, Noblesville (66)
Individual state qualifiers (top-five without advancing team): Jake Miller, Richmond (72); Jacob Collins, Norwell (74); Brady Wheeler, New Castle (75); Nick Williams, Bishop Chatard (76); Drew Alexander, Hamilton Southeastern (76).
Mt. Vernon: Oliver Mast 77, Max Heitman 81, Xavier Dunham 82, Will Dant 83, John Husar 90.
New Palestine: Quinn Dobbins 82, Blake Barnette 83, Nick Lyon 88, Elijah Domogala 91, Matt Kelley 104.