I was wondering how far down the Indiana High School Golf Coaches Association state rankings I would have to plunge to find Columbus East.
Knowing that the Olympians live in the shadow of state champion Columbus North last year, I figured they wouldn’t get a lot of attention this season.
But surely someone would notice that they had their five starters returning, including Adam Krebs, who missed qualifying for the state tournament last season by a stroke, and Zach Sutton, who missed state by two shots.
Perennial power Westfield was ranked No. 1, and Bishop Dwenger was No. 2. I scanned farther down the list.
Bloomington South No. 6 … Noblesville No. 15 … Franklin No. 20.
Hmmmm. Zippity-do-dah in the rankings for East.
Then I went to the honorable mentions. Homestead, Pendleton Heights, Lake Central, Perry Meridian.
Not even a tiny blip on the radar.
If that doesn’t irk the Olympians just a tad, it should. This team has an outside chance to land a state berth and certainly compares well to the teams in the No. 15 to No. 20 spots in the rankings.
Fortunately, golf is a game where opinion doesn’t come into play. East coach Tom LaBarbera will send out his players, and they will determine their own fate through their scores.
LaBarbera, meanwhile, said he understands why his team was left out of the rankings.
“Some of my stronger players didn’t play in the tournaments last summer that the other coaches would have recognized,” LaBarbera said. “That’s probably why we are flying low under the radar.”
That could change Saturday as East, North and Jennings County are among the teams that will open the season at the Seymour Invitational.
However, LaBarbera isn’t expecting the Olympians to light it up. “We’ve got a ways to go from what I’ve seen,” he said. “A number of our players are multisport athletes. So we are going to be a little slow starting.
“By the end of the season, though, we should be pretty darned tough.”
North coach Doug Bieker, who is chairman of the IHSGCA rankings committee, said he voted for East but he thought that the Olympians probably don’t travel enough around the state to get noticed by all the coaches.
“East probably will be ranked soon, and we might be there, too,” Bieker said.
Although North is the defending state champion, the Bull Dogs lost all their starters to graduation and, like East, are unranked.
Bieker said it is the first time he has had his entire starting lineup graduate, but he does remember four seasons ago, when Michael Vandeventer and Christian Fairbanks were freshmen, that his team wasn’t ranked going into the season. North finished second in the state that year.
He said his five starters on Saturday should come from a core of six players, including seniors Kyung Kim, Connor Opalka and Conner Hayes and sophomores Matt Vorndran, Bryce Turner and Spencer Fairbanks.
“It’s a little different this year,” Bieker said. “We might play well one day; we might not. More times than not, though, I think we will be OK. What we lack is tournament experience.”
He said that by the end of the season his Bull Dogs will be ready to challenge for a sectional title.
They will face a tough East lineup in Krebs, Sutton, Will Mayhew, Austin Proffitt and Chris Jurrema.
Although LaBarbera has the veteran lineup, he understands that his team finished 20 shots behind North in the sectional last season and 15 shots out of a state-qualifying berth at the regional.
That’s about four shots a man his players will have to make up, or two strokes a side.
“We have a lot of hard work to do,” LaBarbera said. “But we have the players who are capable of doing it. It will be quite a challenge.”
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.