GREENFIELD — A sectional champion last year as a freshman, New Castle’s Blake Wheeler was one of the obvious favorites Monday when the area golfers took the course to decide the 2014 title.
Instead, it was another freshman – playing in Wheeler’s group – that emerged.
Mt. Vernon ninth-grader Oliver Mast fired a 1-under 71 at Hawk’s Tail to win the sectional crown.
“Playing with Blake today, and with all the other great golfers out here, I sort of knew it was going to take around even-par to win,” Mast said. “But I really wasn’t focused on the score too much until about the last three holes when I felt it creeping into my head.”
Mast maintained his focus to close with a par-birdie-par, edging New Castle’s Drew Saunders (72), Greenfield-Central’s Adam Casto (73) and Wheeler (74).
The Trojans won their second straight team title, posting a 301. Mt. Vernon was a runner-up at 308, followed by Shelbyville (318), Greenfield-Central (319) and New Palestine (345) in the 13-team event.
New Castle, Mt. Vernon and Shelbyville advanced as teams to the regional Friday (8 a.m.) at The Player’s Club in Yorktown. The top three teams plus the top three golfers from non-advancing teams moved on to the regional.
Casto, Shenandoah’s Ryan Farmer (75) and New Palestine’s Brady Elliott (77) grabbed the individual regional spots.
Farmer had the shot of the day. He took a double-eagle two on the par-5, 477-yard 16th, knocking in his second shot from approximately 180 yards.
Austin Alexander (75), Will Dant (80) and Jacob Ault (82) joined Mast in completing the team scoring for the Marauders, who succeeded in challenging New Castle.
Last year, the Trojans posted a 316 and beat runner-up Greenfield-Central by 26 strokes and the Marauders by 27 strokes.
Monday, New Castle led Mt. Vernon 147-159 through nine holes, then the Marauders closed the gap.
“Certainly happy with our effort today,” said MV coach Caleb Zelenick, whose team won the Hancock County Championship Tuesday with a 310 at Arrowhead. “After the county, I told them if we can duplicate this at Hawk’s Tail and do 310 or better, we’ll give ourselves a chance. And we gave ourselves a chance, but New Castle’s a heck of a team and was just a little bit better today.”
One stroke is all that kept Greenfield-Central from sending a full contingent to The Player’s Club. Clayton Long and Jacob Kauth had solid 80s for the Cougars, but Shelbyville earned the final team spot with four of their golfers posting 82 or better.
It was a bit of good karma for the Golden Bears, who carded a 345 last season, two strokes behind the Marauders for the final regional qualification.
The scores among the contending squads were just as tight this time around, although much lower, noted G-C coach Russ Wiley.
“We were all a lot better this year,” he said. “We were 23 shots better than our score last year. So we improved. Obviously everybody else did, too. Shelbyville had an even bigger jump. They shot 345 last year. So 27 (strokes) better … that was the difference.”
Combined, Mt. Vernon, Shelbyville, G-C and New Palestine were 105 strokes better than last season’s sectional effort.
Eastern Hancock finished eighth with 397, led by Cole Allen (96), Caleb Wallen (99) and Nelson Dulin (99).
Grayden Martin and Aric Kotarski notched 84s for New Palestine.
Elliott, the Dragons’ junior, advanced to the regional as an individual for the second straight year. He and Casto will be among the individual golfers aiming to bust out of a competitive regional near Muncie. The top three teams plus top five golfers from non-advancing regional squads will qualify for the State Finals, June 17-18 in Franklin.
Casto was the lone county link master to make it to The Legends a year ago. He signed for a regional 75. It took a 76 to get out individually.
Hamilton Southeastern (295), Noblesville (301) and Pendleton Heights (302) were the top teams.
“They usually have us all the way on the black tees, pushed back,” Wiley said of The Player’s Club regional course. “It’s usually a pretty tough setup. There’s a lot of really good teams there, so they try to make it as tough as they can. Adam will have his work cut out.
“I’m going to guess 73 to be in the hunt to get out on Friday. I don’t think there were a lot of seniors up there last year. Everybody’s just better this year.”
For Monday’s sectional champ, he’ll take the same cautious approach into the regional that proved fruitful in shooting a career-best at Hawk’s Tail.
Mast – the first county golfer to win a boys sectional since New Palestine’s Mitchell Simmons in 2009 – said he’s shot “around 74” a few times previously.
“But this is definitely my best,” he said. “I didn’t take many risks out there today. I played pretty safe. No penalty shots, no three-putts. I just hit the ball in the fairways. Didn’t take a lot of chances out there and it turned out with a 71.”
Boys Golf Sectional
Monday at Hawk’s Tail, Greenfield
Top 3 teams and top 3 golfers from non-advancing teams qualify for regional, Friday, 8 a.m., Player’s Club, Yorktown.
New Castle 301, Mt. Vernon 308, Shelbyville 318, Greenfield-Central 319, New Palestine 345, Shenandoah 363, Southwestern 389, Eastern Hancock 397, Triton Central 415, Blue River Valley 417, Waldron 426, Knightstown 440, Morristown 455
Oliver Mast (MV) 71
Drew Saunders (NV) 72
Adam Casto (GC) 73*
Blake Wheeler (NC) 74
Austin Alexander (MV) 75
Ty Flowers (NC) 75
Ryan Farmer (SH) 75*
Connor Ridgeway (SV) 76
Brady Elliott (NP) 77*
*Advancing without a team
EH: Allen 49-47—96, Dulin 48-51—99, Wallen 48-51—99, Bunnell 51-52—103, Stacy 55-50—105
GC: Casto 36-37—73, Pence 41-39—80, Kauth 41-39—80, Long 44-42—86, Holtzclaw 50-49—99
MV: Mast 35-36—71, Alexander 38-37—75, Dant 43-37—80, Ault 42-40—82, Harker 46-45—91
NP: Elliott 40-37—77, Martin 42-42—84, Kotarski 43-41—84, O’Dell 49-52—101, Kreutzer 55-47—102