To say last year’s state finals was a heart-breaker for the Columbus North boys golfers would be a massive understatement.
The Bull Dogs, who spent almost the entire season ranked No. 1, had the title within its grasp, only to lose it to Westfield on the final hole. That left North two shots behind the Shamrocks for its second agonizingly close runner-up finish in three years.
Two senior Division I recruits who have played on three top-four state finals teams are among five college signees. All-State golfers Michael VanDeventer (Ball State) and Christian Fairbanks (Indiana) will lead the group.
“Certainly, we would expect them to play at a high level,” North coach Doug Bieker said. “How good we will be kind of depends on the guys that haven’t played a lot of varsity yet — guys like Ian Coffey and Zack Lee. We have to have the third and fourth score for sure. Nick Waskom is back and has a lot of experience. We kind of know what those guys are going to shoot. It’s what the other guys shoot that determines how good we’re going to be.”
Waskom, who was the Bull Dogs’ No. 3 golfer for much of last season, has committed to play at Manchester. Lee is headed to Huntington and Coffey to Saint Francis.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Bieker said. “We’re senior-heavy this year, and we have some younger guys pushing them.”
Those young guys include freshmen Matt Vorndran and Bryce Turner and juniors Connor Opalka, Kyung Kim and Conner Hayes.
“The fourth and fifth spot is kind of up in the air,” Bieker said. “Ian and Zack have to play well. If the seniors don’t perform early, we’ll slide a freshman or two in there and get them some experience. We have high expectations again as a team. I think they have high expectations of themselves.”
North won Conference Indiana, Greensburg Sectional and Providence Regional titles last season. To win that elusive state crown, the Bull Dogs likely will have to get past Westfield, which has all but one player back.
“We’ll have our hands full,” Bieker said. “Just shooting what we shot last year isn’t good enough. We have to get better.”
With four of the five players back from last year’s regional qualifiers, the Olympians are looking to make a push for a state berth this season.
“We’re excited about making a run and maybe making it further,” East coach Tom LaBarbera said. “We’d like to obviously place well in our conference tournament. Last year at regional, we were middle of the pack, and we’d like to move up. It’s one of our goals.”
The Olympians finished fourth in the Hoosier Hills Conference, second in sectional and 11th in regional. Junior Adam Krebs was a state qualifier as an individual.
LaBarbera calls Krebs and fellow juniors Zach Sutton and Chris Jurrema the backbone of the team.
Sophomore Austin Proffitt also returns to the varsity. He is battling for one of the final two spots with seniors Will Crawford and Gunner Jones and freshman Derek Alexander.
“I’m optimistic,” LaBarbera said. “With the backbone of the team and those other four players, that’s going to fill us out fine.”
Sophomore Will Mayhew is recovering from a broken collarbone suffered while playing with the Columbus Icemen in the state hockey finals and could return in a few weeks.
As a small school, the Crusaders are fighting a numbers problem, but they hope to be able to produce a winning season this spring.
“One thing that’s kind of hurt us a little bit is that we’ve started baseball, as well, and at a school our size, that takes some of our numbers,” Columbus Christian coach Ron Bridgewater said
Junior Nick Bridgewater and Austin Straub have been the team’s No. 1 and No. 2 golfers the past two years. Junior Chris Noblitt was also in the top five last season.
Junior Andrew Foster was sometimes in the top five. Junior Parker Hilliard and freshman Judah Haynes will join them in this year’s lineup.
“We have some younger guys this year that could help us,” Ron Bridgewater said.
The Jets return all but one player and will be led by junior Jack Washburn.
“Not only does Jack have experience, he fills that leadership role in terms of work ethic,” Hauser coach Clarke Chafin said.
Seniors Jon Isbill and Nate Hull were also full-time varsity players. Junior Wyatt Whittington and sophomore Cole Morgan shared the No. 5 spot.
Sophomore Chase Conner played in some dual matches. Also challenging for varsity spots are sophomore newcomers Keenen Owen and Aaron Sweet, a transfer from South Decatur.
“I think the sophomore class has a lot of potential,” Chafin said. “Cole and Chase had experience last year on varsity, and Keenen and Aaron have a chance to be on varsity this year. Their biggest challenge is going to be able to get that consistent play at home and on the road.”
Four of the top six players return from a team that finished sixth in the HHC, second in the Madison Sectional and 15th in the regional.
Sophomores Jake Simmons and Ian Donnell will be the Panthers’ top two golfers. Senior Tyler Clerkin and sophomore Allen Sharp also return.
Sophomores Garrett Day and Bailey Wilder will battle for the No. 5 spot.
“I compared last year’s tryouts the first week with this year’s tryouts the first week, and it looks like we may be a stroke or two better on average with our top four,” Jennings coach Gary Yeager said. “So we may be just as good or even a little better.”
Fifteen kids are out for this year’s team, a jump from years past.
The Eagles will look to improve on a 12th-place finish in the Bloomington North Sectional. Three of the top five return in senior Brady Rose, junior Matt Wright and sophomore Aubrey Seaman.
Junior Ty Broussard and sophomore Wesley Weigel played some varsity last season. Sophomores Jake Dixon and Gavin Brown could challenge for varsity spots.
“I’m hoping that some of the guys by virtue of being a year older can do better,” Brown County coach Brad Baughman said. “I hope they’ve kind of refined their game on their own, and that will lead to some better scores.”
The Cougars lost regional qualifier Dustin Huff but have the other four varsity players back from a team that finished third in the Mid-
Hoosier Conference and fifth in the Greensburg Sectional.
“I think we have very good potential,” South Decatur coach Josh Grossman said. “Losing Dustin, a guy that shot 2- or 4-over for 18 holes is tough to take. But I think we have a shot at winning our conference, as well as making it out of sectional this year.”
Seniors Adam Fry and Andrew Wullenweber and juniors Nick Schwering and Brayden Helms return to the varsity. Sophomore Cory Hastings also spent some time in the No. 5 spot.
Junior Seth Niese was an alternate for the sectional, along with Hastings. Those two and senior Evan Wiggins are battling for spots in the top five.
The Lancers have scheduled more 18-hole tournaments to prepare for the big tournaments at the end of the season after finishing seventh in the MHC and 10th in the Southport sectional.
“Conference will be pretty strong again,” Edinburgh coach Doug Weddle said. “Hopefully, we can do a little bit better than we did last year. Sectional will be pretty tough, but individually, if we can play a little bit better, I think as a team, we’ll be all right.”
Four of the Lancers’ top six are back, led by seniors Chris Quillen and Seth Barrett. Sophomores Kyle and Zach Pendleton also return.
Junior Adam Barker and sophomore Sinjun Turner will battle for the No. 5 spot.
Four of the top five return for the Owls, who finished seventh in HHC and seventh in the Bloomington North Sectional.
Senior Dustin Ruddick and sophomore Brady Marshall were the team’s top two golfers last season. Senior Jordan Jones and junior Ethan Ashley also return.
Junior Zac Quillen will begin the season in the No. 5 spot. Freshmen Blake Furlow and Brantley Adams and sophomore Brady Rinehart could push for varsity spots.
“We feel good about the future,” Seymour coach Tim Freshour said. “We have some good young kids coming in our junior program, so hopefully in the next couple years, we’ll start turning this thing around.”
The Cougars finished eighth in the Bloomington North Regional last season and have four of their top five back.
Junior Parker Criswell was the team’s No. 1 golfer. Also back are juniors Clayton Terry and Clayton Pottschmidt and sophomore Andrew Rodriguez.
Freshmen Jonathan Keith, Skylar Stahl, Chad Stuckwisch and Corey Stuckwisch are battling for the No. 5 spot.
“They’re all good players, and they’ve all been working hard so far,” Trinity coach Greg Personett said. “I think definitely we will be a better team this year. The juniors are going to step up and be leaders, and the freshmen are excited and ready to play.”