Big Dreams: Bull Dogs, Olympians hoping for 2017 success

A season that started with high hopes didn’t end the way the Columbus North boys golfers wanted.

With six of their top seven back this season, the Bull Dogs hope to atone for that ninth-place finish in the Providence Regional and qualify for state with a top-three finish.

“Their expectation and my expectation for the team is, they have a lot to prove this year,” North coach Doug Bieker said. “I think this team wants to win a lot and to prove they can at least compete a lot, and that they can be good at the end.”

Senior Bryce Turner, who has committed to St. Francis, led the Bull Dogs with a 78.4 average per 18 holes. He was the runner-up in the Greensburg Sectional, and his 76 at the regional was two shots away from being in a playoff for the final individual state-qualifying spot.

Senior Spencer Fairbanks qualified for state as an individual as a sophomore. Another senior, Matt Vorndran, like Turner and Fairbanks, is entering his third year in the top five.

Sophomores Drew Smith and Henry Kiel saw varsity action as freshmen last season. Senior Zachary Schiavello also played some varsity and is pushing for a spot in the top five.

“He’s worked extremely hard to make himself better, and the other guys realize there’s no guaranteed spots,” Bieker said. “It’s going to be a tough decision every week to see whose playing. That competition is healthy and good for those kids and keeps them sharp.”

Bieker is looking for those six players to be competing at a high level early this season, mainly because of their experience.

“This team should really be good,” Bieker said. “We want to win the regional. The most important thing is to finish in the top three because you want to win the next week. It’s never easy. That regional is difficult.”

Columbus East

The Olympians shocked the Bull Dogs by winning the sectional in 2015. Then, they did it again last year.

East lost The Republic Boys Golfer of the Year Austin Proffitt to graduation but returns the rest of its top five from a team that finished 11th in the regional.

“We really want to do well in our conference, and we want to compete at sectional,” East coach Tom LaBarbera said. “To even think about state, that’s so far down the road. We have a very competitive regional with Center Grove and Bloomington South, and we just hope we’re one of those teams battling for that third spot.”

Seniors Derek Alexander and Thomas Ruch figure to lead the Olympians this season. Alexander averaged 79.2 per 18 holes last season, while Ruch averaged 80.6.

Sophomores Mark Mayhew and Nathan Cesarski were solid as East’s No. 4 and No. 5 golfers as freshmen.

“Derek has been around so long, he just has a lot of poise and confidence, so he’s going to be solid for us,” LaBarbera said. “Thomas really didn’t have that much experience last year, but he has another experience under his belt. Mark played quite a bit over the summer, so he’s gained more experience, and Nathan is a very good athlete.”

Sophomores Ryan Singer, who was mostly a JV player last season, is battling for the No. 5 spot. Senior Matt Furnish, The Republic Boys Tennis Player of the Year, is out for golf for the first time, as is sophomore Evan Wieneke.

Freshman Adrian Adams figures to contend with those players for that final varsity position.

“We’re actually a little bit deeper this year than we’ve been in several years,” LaBarbera said. “We’ll have to see how these young players develop for us.”

Hauser

The Jets have a new coach in Mike Compton, a 1975 Hauser graduate.

Compton’s cousin, junior Justin Compton, was the Jets’ top golfer last season. Seniors Owen Green, Nick Neafus and Spencer Seim also were in the top five.

Junior Matt Sweet could be the No. 5 golfer. He is battling with seniors Trevor Potts, Clayton Wilson and Connor Wilson is out for golf for the first time; freshman Sam Johnson and exchange student Jaime Saez Barbero.

The Wilsons are out for golf after running track last year. Clayton Wilson played golf as a freshman and sophomore, while Connor is playing golf for the first time.

“Our expectations are high because we have four of our returners back,” Mike Compton said. “Our goal this year is just trying to get everybody to have some consistency and be better at the end of the year than they started.”

Jennings County

The Panthers also have a new coach this season. B.J. Bingham played at Jennings County and at Vincennes University.

Six seniors graduated from last year’s team that finished 16th in the regional. Junior Austin Roscoe is only one of top five returning.

Sophomore Bryce Kirchner and junior Justin Gasper played a little varsity last season and will be the No. 2 and No. 3 golfers. Sophomore Hunter Conrad and freshman Adam Leach likely will begin the season at No. 4 and No. 5

Sophomores Samson Miller and Keegan Beal and freshman Joe Kelly are pushing for varsity spots.

“I have several stacked right in there together,” Bingham said. “We have a lot of inexperience, which we’re trying to work through.”

Brown County

The Eagles also made it to regional last year, finishing 17th. But like Jennings, only one of the top five is back.

Sophomore Parker VanNess is the lone full-time varsity returner. Senior Tyler Poling, junior Ben Rygiel and senior Dawson Dunnuck have played in a few varsity matches over the past couple of years.

Senior Jacob Ford has the inside track on the other varsity spot.

“We’re going to have to build some stuff around Parker,” Brown County coach Brad Baughman said. “We have some seniors, but very little experience. Parker is the only known quantity we have.”

Edinburgh

The Lancers will play some of their home matches at Timbergate this season after playing mostly at Deer Valley the past couple of years.

Sophomore Bladen Hancock is the only player returning from top five and will start the year as the No. 1 golfer. Senior Keegan Jones and sophomore Zach Burton, who were JV players, likely will move into the top five.

Battling for the other two varsity spots are junior Christian Cox, freshman Noah Childers and senior Scott Denewitt.

“I call it a rebuilding year,” Edinburgh coach Doug Weddle said. “I think that they will improve, and that’s what I’m hoping to see throughout the season.”

South Decatur

The Cougars have a small squad this year, with only nine players.

Senior Jacob Johnson and junior Jake Vannatta return from the top five. Senior Logan Owens and sophomore Nick Bales played some varsity and will start the season in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots.

Juniors Kirby Owens and Justice Burton are battling for the No. 5 position.

“We have a little bit of experience coming back, but we’re pretty raw,” South Decatur coach Josh Grossman said.

Trinity Lutheran

The Cougars return all five golfers from the lineup that finished seventh in the Bloomington North Sectional.

Seniors Chad Stuckwisch, Cory Stuckwich, Jonathan Keith and Skylar Stahl are back, along with sophomore Jacob Keith. Jacob Keith is battling for the No. 5 spot with senior Drew Royalty and sophomore Kohei Nagino.

Trinity coach Greg Personett hopes this is the year the Cougars get through to the regional.

“We keep knocking on the door,” Personett said. “Sooner or later, we’re going to break it down. This year, I think we have something different. We have a good team this year, and I’m really impressed with all the work the kids are putting in.”

If you go

The 2017 boys golf schedules for Bartholomew County schools:

Columbus East

Saturday;at Seymour Invitational;9 a.m.

April 8;at Floyd Central Invitational;2 p.m.

April 10;at Shelbyville;4:45 p.m.

April 15;at Jennings County Tournament;9 a.m.

April 18;Jennings County;4:30 p.m.

April 29;at Bedford North Lawrence;8:30 a.m.

May 1;at Seymour;5 p.m.

May 4;Columbus North;4 p.m.

May 6;at Bloomington North;8 a.m.

May 8;at Madison;4:30 p.m.

May 16;New Albany;4:30 p.m.

May 17;Jeffersonville;4:45 p.m.

May 18;Batesville;5 p.m.

May 20;HHC at Jeffersonville;1 p.m.

May 25;at Columbus North;4 p.m.

May 26;at Greensburg;4 p.m.

May 27;at Providence Invitational;1 p.m.

May 30;Bloomington North;1 p.m.

Columbus North

Saturday;at Seymour Invitational;9 a.m.

April 8;Hall of Fame at Rock Hollow;10 a.m.

April 12;Jennings County, Providence;5 p.m.

April 13;Franklin Central;4:30 p.m.

April 15;at Center Grove Invitational;1 p.m.

April 24;Bloomington South;4 p.m.

April 29;at Bedford North Lawrence Invitational;8:30 a.m.

May 1;Bloomington North;4 p.m.

May 3;at Franklin;4 p.m.

May 4;at Columbus East;4 p.m.

May 6;Spring Preview at Prairie View;1 p.m.

May 10;Shelbyville, New Palestine;4:30 p.m.

May 13;at Zionsville Invitational;8:30 a.m.

May 15;Conference Indiana at Perry Meridian;9 a.m.

May 22;Greensburg;4 p.m.

May 25;Columbus East;4 p.m.

May 27;at Providence Invitational;1 p.m.

Hauser

April 6;Brown County;4:30 p.m.

April 13;at Waldron;4 p.m.

April 17;Edinburgh;4:30 p.m.

April 20;at North Decatur (with Batesville);4:30 p.m.

April 26;at Columbus North JV;4 p.m.

May 1;Southwestern (Shelby);4:30 p.m.

May 2;Trinity Lutheran;4:30 p.m.

May 6;Hauser Invitational;9 a.m.

May 8;at Edinburgh (with North Decatur);4:30 p.m.

May 10;at Brown County;4:30 p.m.

May 13;MHC at North Decatur;8 a.m.

May 18;at South Decatur (with Morristown);4:30 p.m.

May 24;at Indian Creek;4:30 p.m.

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.