Champions Again: Senior-led Dragons reclaim county golf title


New Palestine’s boys golf team assembles before their Hancock County meet at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — The New Palestine Dragons had one focus entering Wednesday’s Hancock County boys golf tournament.

No repeat.

A year ago, the Dragons celebrated a match-play victory over rival Mt. Vernon two days prior to the 2021 county meet, but they couldn’t carry the momentum forward, finishing second to the Marauders.

This time around, they capitalized.

Led by their senior co-captains, tournament medalist Braeden Baker and Matthew Barada, the Dragons fired a 157 at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield and swept the night to dethrone the defending champion Marauders.

Mt. Vernon finished third with a 170, while Greenfield-Central was second at 167 and Eastern Hancock placed fourth with a team score of 207.

“Last year, we had a match with Mt. Vernon and then right after we had county, and we beat Mt. Vernon but they came back and won county,” Baker recalled.

“So, this year, we kind of had the motivation after Monday night when we beat them again. Our coach, coming into this match, told us to just play your game. Don’t worry about Mt. Vernon, but of course, us being New Pal, it’s hard to do that.”

Their first county team title since 2018, the Dragons have been eyeing the Marauders for years, especially with Mt. Vernon claiming 10 of the past 12 championships.

Mt. Vernon dominated the county tournament from 2010-17 and seized the title again in 2019 before winning the 2021 championship.

The Dragons placed three golfers on the All-County team this year to win by a 10-stroke margin and collected their second title in five years.

“It’s big. We have four seniors this year, and it means a lot for this team to bring it back home to New Pal, especially with everything we went through the past two years due to COVID. It’s great to have everyone here just playing the game,” Baker said.

Baker carded a 1-under-par 35, which marked a new career-best on the course. Efficiency was his ally through the front nine during the nine-hole tournament, and it paved the way to medalist honors, especially on the greens.

“I shot my second 36 on Monday, which was my personal best at the moment until tonight, which it was a great moment. It was perfect timing,” Baker said.

“I’ve been working on my putter quite a bit this season. I’ve lost a lot of shots around the green prior to this season. Chipping and putting has been my main focus, and tonight it really worked out for me. I only had 12 putts for nine greens, and it was probably the highlight of the night.”

Barada, who placed third at county in 2021, improved his placement by taking second with a 3-over-par 39.

The tournament’s top-five individual finishers were named to the All-County team.

Junior Landon Beaty gave the Dragons three golfers on the distinction list with a 39.

Greenfield-Central’s Josh Alley was fourth overall with a 39. Cougars’ Tyler Young earned a spot at fifth with a 40, which was settled on the first tiebreaker with his fourth-hole score.

Mt. Vernon’s Nils Erkmanis shot a 40 to lead the Marauders, which didn’t have a golfer go sub-40.

“It’s a big deal for us because our freshmen year, I felt like we should have won it, and we kind of let that one slip away,” Barada said. “Then, we didn’t have sophomore year (due to COVID), which we felt really confident with that team. Again, last year, we felt we let it slip, again, so this means a lot to finally get one and three guys on the all-county team.”

Last season, Mt. Vernon won the county title with a 162, as New Palestine posted a 179. Greenfield-Central shot a 182.

“We just played our game. Kept to ourselves and respected the way the game is supposed to be played,” Baker said. “Our team is just a huge family. We feed off of each other. Matthew Barada and I work great together. Even when we have a bad shot, we know how to fix each other and build each other up.”

The Dragons’ top-four inspired one another through their play with senior Evan Griffith firing a 44 and junior Alex Cofer finishing with a 46.

“They’re definitely motivated. They’re hungry. The match play thing we did last year with Mt. Vernon, we best them at their place and then they kicked us pretty good at county two days later, so that was a point of emphasis after we were done with the match play event (Monday). We didn’t want that match to be the peaking moment for us,” New Palestine head coach Chris Story said. “We shot 157 in stroke play and we shot 157, again, tonight, so we definitely didn’t peak. We want to keep building on that moment and the guys did that.”

With a busy week on hand, the Dragons don’t intend to slow down. On Saturday, they head to the Batesville Invitational where they hope to defend their team title.

“This whole week, we knew we had Mt. Vernon, county and then Batesville on Saturday. We knew we had to take it a step at a time, and we got Mt. Vernon, so we were feeling pretty good. Now, we have county, and hopefully, we can carry that into this weekend,” Barada said.

“Today, all coach kept saying was, ‘This is our time. It’s our turn.’ All we had to do is come out and execute, and we did that really well.”

2022 Hancock County Boys Golf Tournament

at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield

Team Scores: New Palestine 157, Greenfield-Central 167, Mt. Vernon 170, Eastern Hancock 207.

Medalist: Braeden Baker, New Palestine 35

All-County Team: Braeden Baker, NP 35; Matthew Barada, NP 39; Landon Beaty, NP 39; Josh Alley, G-C 39; Tyler Young, G-C 40.

Individual Scores

EH: Jakc Murphy 54, Reese Neisler 48, Chase Riggs 59, Landon O’Neal 48, Carter Dishman 57.

G-C: Josh Alley 39, Tyler Young 40, Avery Young 44, Bryce Hasty 44, Andrew Munden 46.

MV: Nils Erkmanis 40, Kyran Maxfield 45, Aaron Arkenau 43, Asher Cotton 43, Dawson Perry 44.

NP: Braeden Baker 35, Matthew Barada 39, Evan Griffith 44, Landon Beaty 39, Alex Cofer 46.