Over the past few years, Columbus North and Columbus East have ran into a wave of quality teams in the Providence Regional.
The path to reach the state finals will be a little easier this year after the IHSAA added a sixth regional. Realignment sent perennial power Bloomington South and 2022 state qualifier Jasper to the Washington Regional, leaving the Providence Regional a little less loaded at the top.
The top three teams in today’s 15-team field at Champions Pointe qualify for the state finals on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I think if we play a little bit above average for us, I don’t think there’s any chance we wouldn’t make it,” North coach Doug Bieker said. “If we struggle a little bit, we could bring other teams into the mix. But I believe this team can win, and that’s our goal. We’re not going there just to advance. We’re going down there to win. I really believe this team can do that, and then if we can accomplish that goal, then who knows what can happens next week at Prairie View.”
Today’s regional also will include qualifying individuals. The top two individuals on non-advancing teams qualify for state.
The 16th-ranked Bull Dogs are the third of three ranked teams in the field. No. 7 Silver Creek and No. 8 Center Grove are the favorites.
North beat both Silver Creek and Center Grove in winning the Franklin Central Invitational late in the regular season. But the Dragons and Trojans also have beaten the Bull Dogs this season, and Floyd Central was within four shots of North at a late-season tournament.
“We’re ready,” Bieker said. “I think they’re excited to get down there and start playing. I think they’re prepared for whatever challenge the course will give them.”
The Bull Dogs are a veteran group led by seniors Tyler Wilks, Willy Davis, John Merritt and Jack Schiavello. They are joined by sophomore Brady Schneider.
“Those four seniors have to step up and shoot a good number, and Brady has to play better than he did in the Providence Invitational,” Bieker said. “I think we’ll be capable of the mid-70s. All five of these guys are capable of that. I think we have five guys that can go low.”
Columbus East, on the other hand, has three underclassmen at the top of its lineup. Sophomore Carter Greene and juniors Pierce Arnholt and Ben Luedeke are joined by seniors Spencer Erfmeier and Jamall Starks.
Columbus East’s Carter Greene watches his tee shot on No. 4 during the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament at Timbergate Golf Course in Edinburgh, Ind., Monday, May 22, 2023.
The Republic file photo
Like North’s top three seniors, East’s three underclassmen have taken turns leading the team in scoring this season.
“We’ve had a couple guys take their shots up there,” East coach Keith VanDeventer said. “I’ve continued to tell them the number you play doesn’t matter. It’s just about playing for the team and being a part of improvement. They’ve continued to get better, and it’s been very encouraging.”
Greene, Arnholt and Luedeke all played in last year’s regional and will gain more experience today on the Champions Pointe course. With the trio back next year, they could make a run at state, although VanDeventer isn’t ruling out making a run at it this season.
“You hate to push something off to next year,” VanDeventer said. “If we go down and play as well as capable of playing, we’ll see what happens this year. Like I tell them, ‘Let’s not wait until next year. Take advantage of the situation you have in front of you right now.’
“There are a lot of good teams down there,” he added. “Obviously, we’re not one of the favorites, but you never know what can happen. Hopefully, we’ll be on our game, and we’ll see what happens.”