YORKTOWN — The three Hancock County teams competing in Thursday’s IHSAA Boys Golf Muncie Central Regional knew cracking the top three would be a tall task.
Between tough course conditions at the Players Club, and a trio of sub-310 scores shot by opposing teams, the regional more than lived up to that expectation.
For Monday’s sectional winner Greenfield-Central, and runner-up Mt. Vernon, though, it was their own play that didn’t match expectations.
“We didn’t play up to our full potential, and we knew we had more in us,” Mt. Vernon head coach Tom Kirby said. “They’ll all tell you that.”
The Marauders placed eighth with a score of 330, the Cougars were 11th with a 344, and New Palestine was 12th with a 345. Hamilton Southeastern placed first with a score of 289, Tipton was runner-up with a 303, and Noblesville grabbed the final state qualifying spot with a 306.
The Cougars were 25 shots worse than their sectional winning score of 319, and 19 shots worse than the 325 they shot the last time they played the course during the Hoosier Heritage Conference tournament. The Marauders, who won the HHC at the Players Club, were eight shots worse.
“It happens, it’s golf,” Greenfield-Central head coach Cliff Henderson said. “It’s like I was told earlier, you’re trying to find a perfect solution to an imperfect game.”
For the Dragons, their score of 345 was closer to their season average and seven shots better than their HHC score of 352, but a few tough holes kept them from scoring much better.
“There were definitely some holes where we really struggled. There’s no double par pick-up … so there were some holes with 10s, or nines, so that changed the perplexity of some guys’ scores,” New Palestine head coach Chris Story said. “Overall, I was pretty happy with how they battled throughout the day, though.”
Three county competitors broke 80 on the day, with New Palestine’s Nick Barada and Mt. Vernon’s Aaron Arkenau leading the way with rounds of 78. Greenfield-Central’s Tyler Young finished one stroke behind with a 79.
Barada, who shot an 89 at the sectional, improved by over 10 strokes in just five days.
“He missed a playoff by three shots and his season scoring average was around an 86 or 87, so he improved a lot today,” Story said. “He kept it really casual on the course, was never in a hurry and never stressed. He was really just enjoying the day, and I think it really helped him to think that way.”
A 1-over-par 37 on the back nine, and the ability to keep the ball in play and set up birdie chances, helped him close out the day strong.
“He found one penalty area today, and it wasn’t a re-tee, it was a lateral, so that helped, and he rolled the rock really well,” Story said. “Those were the keys today. And he took advantage of some birdie looks.”
Arkenau had an even split, going 3-over on both the front and back nine holes, and was the only Marauder to break 80 — something four different people had done during the season for Mt. Vernon.
Nils Erkmanis carded the Marauders No. 2 score with an 81, Brady Pearson shot an 85, and Asher Cotton shot an 86 to compile the team score.
“It’s just golf,” Kirby said. “We just had some problems today with some shots that we just couldn’t get a feel for.”
The Cougars, who had four golfers shoot 82 or lower at the sectional over the weekend, saw three of their five golfers card a 90 or higher.
Avery Young capped off his day with a birdie on 18, but finished with a 90, and both Bryce Hasty and Jonathon Smith shot 93s.
“It’s just a matter of grinding it out.” Henderson said. “A lot of them are still young, so it’s just a matter of getting some maturity and experience under their belt and learning how to grind things out.”
Senior Josh Alley carded the Cougars’ second-best score with an 82.
The trip to Yorktown capped off Henderson’s first season as head coach, and although it didn’t end the way he and the team had hoped, the Cougars accomplished more than any Greenfield-Central team had since 1997.
“It’s less about me and more about those kids. I’m so happy for them. We couldn’t get here without them,” Henderson said. “They’re the important pieces, it’s just a matter of me taking 15 kids with different personalities and trying to get them to achieve one goal.”
2023 Muncie Central Boys Golf Regional
Team scores: Hamilton Southeastern 289, Tipton 303, Noblesville 306, Yorktown 314, Heritage Christian 317, Cathedral 318, Bishop Chatard 322, Mt. Vernon 330, Eastbrook 332, Bellmont 343, Greenfield-Central 344, New Palestine 345, Delta 358, Norwell 365, Winchester 369.
Mt. Vernon (330): Aaron Arkenau 78, Nils Erkmanis 81, Brady Pearson 85, Asher Cotton 86, Jace Lugar 88.
Greenfield-Central (344): Tyler Young 79, Josh Alley 82, Avery Young 90, Bryce Hasty 93, Jonathon Smith 93.
New Palestine (345): Nick Barada 78, Luke Cofer 84, Alex Cofer 91, Joey McPike 92, Landon Beaty 97.
*Hancock County schools