Dragons, Marauders vie for spots in state tournament

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New Palestine head coach Chris Story checks the wind on the first hole during the IHSAA Boys Golf Sectional at Hawk’s Tail in Greenfield. Story’s Dragons are playing in today’s Muncie Central Regional.

Tom Russo | The Daily Reporter

HANCOCK COUNTY — One team is hot.

The other team has good history of playing well on the course.

New Palestine and Mt. Vernon golfers will participate today in the Muncie Central Regional at The Players Club in Yorktown. Both are seeking team or individual berths into next week’s state finals.

The Dragons are coming off their best round of the season, a 322, at the Greenfield-Central Sectional, held on their home course at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield.

The Marauders were the third of three teams to advance from the sectional tournament. As a team, they were a little off from their normal game in Monday’s sectional, carding a round of 338, but they had a strong tournament the last time they played at the Yorktown course.

Last month in the Hoosier Heritage Conference tournament held at The Players Club, the Marauders had a 323 to place third. It was 12 strokes better than they had the year before when they won the HHC title in 2021.

The Dragons had a 339 at Players Club in May and were fifth in the conference. Both Braeden Baker (fourth) and Matt Barada (eighth) earned All-HHC recognition. Mt. Vernon frosh Nils Erkmanis was the conference runner-up with a 75. Dylan Dreiman was all-league, among a multi-player tie with Barada for eighth place.

We did fairly well,” Mt. Vernon coach Tom Kirby said of having a round on the regional course in tournament-pressure play last month. “We do know that course very well. Does it help us any more? Maybe. Who really knows? In golf, you still have to show up with your swing and make (putts). It’s not not knowing the course that is going to hurt us.”

Teams and individuals that qualified for the regional had a chance to play a practice round earlier in the week. Both New Palestine and Mt. Vernon were scheduled to play the course Tuesday.

“Our scores weren’t the greatest at conference,” New Palestine coach Chris Story said. “We took fifth place. The greens are very tricky there. You have to try to keep it out of the rough because it is very hard to stop the ball on those greens. They are firm and fast and there’s a lot of undulating.”

“You have to know where to miss it. Picking where to be aggressive, deciding when to throttle it back is going to be key,” Story added. “Hopefully we’ll have a good strategy going in, like we did (at the sectional), and we have to just execute.”

New Castle, who was second to host school Yorktown at the HHC tournament, joined New Palestine and Mt. Vernon as qualifying schools from the Greenfield-Central Sectional. The Trojans were sectional champs at Hawk’s Tail with a score of 311.

Teams feed in from six sectionals for an 18-team field. Others in the event include, Northeastern, Jay County, Hamilton Southeastern, Park Tudor, Connersville, Bluffton, Cathedral, Chatard, Fishers, Delta, Yorktown, Richmond, Bellmont, Norwell and Noblesville. There are also 18 individuals qualifiers not associated with the teams.

The top three teams plus the top five low individuals, not on the top three teams, will advance to the state finals June 14-15 at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.

“At this point, I think we have played there enough. We kind of know where to go and not to go. It’s tougher than (Hawk’s Tail),” Barada said of Players Club. “It could be the last time some of us play high school ball. There’s nothing to lose, just go out and try to put a low score up and see what happens.”

Hamilton Southeastern, Fishers and Cathedral advanced from last year’s tournament. Mt. Vernon placed seventh and New Palestine was 15th. Mt. Vernon’s Sam McWilliams advanced to the state meet after placing third individually last year with a score of 69 (-3). He was the lone Hancock County golfer to advance to last year’s state finals. He is now playing at IUPUI.