Senior staff writer
Center Grove’s outstanding short game has propelled the boys golf team to the state’s No. 1 ranking.
“Their touch is incredible,” coach Jim Williams said. “Their finesse, especially against the top teams, comes out.”
The Trojans jumped to the top in last week’s state coaches poll after capturing the Hall of Fame Tournament in Peru with 292 strokes, the 12-team Floyd Central Invitational and the nine-team Trojan Classic with a record 283 at Hickory Stick.
Center Grove was sixth in the state finals last year and ranked No. 3 in the coaches preseason poll behind Westfield and Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger.
They are preparing for the State Preview Tournament at Prairie View on Saturday against a field that features Westfield, Zionsville and Carmel on the same course of this year’s state finals.
“We are among the top five in the state, and that’s where we should be,” Williams said. “When you looked at the top teams and the number of players back this season, we were among them with four returning golfers from the state finals.”
The numbers that Williams’ golfers are putting up this season is from a team that is well-balanced and competitive in the big meets.
Here’s a capsule look at each player with their 18-hole average:
C.J. Heck (senior, 72.4) – Lowest 18-hole average on team … shows overall consistency … good short game.
Noah Gillard (freshman, 72) – Displays the complete package … can hit the long ball off the tee … good touch around the green … plays beyond his age … dubbed “a special player” by Williams.
Austin Crowder (senior, 73.8) – nickname is “Bomber” because of his shots off the tee … solid with mid-iron and short shots … gets to the green.
Zach Carrabine (senior, 74.4) – good mid-iron and short game ... steadily improving.
Ethan Shepherd (junior, 76.2) –strength is his short game.
Tyler Rankel (junior, 76.6) – strong points are short game and putting.
Hayden Martin (senior, 76.6) – late starter … game is starting to pick up … hits long off the tee.
Sam Jean (freshman, 76.7) – first year on varsity … bulldog on the course.
Jackson Williams (junior, 76.9) – strong with short game and putts.
The Trojans are unbeaten and have split the team to play in different tournaments on the same day.
“We’ve had different golfers who have led us in different tourneys,” Williams said. “Having the seniors has helped us through the entire gamut. They really play well against the top players in the state.
Due to recent rains, the Trojans had not played competitively since April 20 until facing Columbus North and Franklin on Tuesday. They were anxious to return to action.