Steininger joins them at regional
South Knox's boys golf team should be as comfortable as any of the 18 teams at the Washington Regional on Thursday.
The Vincennes Sectional champion Spartans are making their third consecutive trip to Country Oaks for the June tournament, and outside of the Hatchets, no team has played the course more than them. South Knox brings a veteran lineup too, seniors Coleton Hostetler and Rahul Bajaj, juniors Tristen Wirth and Lucas Beard, and sophomore Zac Schmidt.
The field is wide open, with only No. 11 Evansville North in the latest poll. It might be too much to ask the Spartans to qualify for the State Finals next Tuesday and Wednesday at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel with a top three finish, but they do have a chance.
"Our goal all year was to win the sectional, which we did," South Knox coach Zach Abel said. "We're not projected to get out of the regional, so I want them to just play loose. If one of them feels like they're in contention to get out as an individual (a top-five score among non-qualifying teams), then I want them to be aggressive and go for birdies. But, otherwise, there's no pressure on us.
"We're paired with North, Northview and Brownsburg, teams we've played with before. We shouldn't be intimidated," he said. "Last year we got ninth in this field, and our top three are scoring better than our top three last year. It would be great to finish in the top five, to shoot 320."
The Spartans are joined from the county by Rivet freshman Christian Steininger, who qualified as the second-low score among non-qualifying teams at last week's sectional.
If last year's scores are a barometer, the third team shot 313 and the fifth-lowest score was 73.
South Knox fired a 317 in its sectional win at the Country Club of Old Vincennes. Beard and Dubbs carded 77s last week at the Country Club of Old Vincennes, Hostetler 78 and Steininger 79. The scores have to go lower Thursday at a Country Oaks course that's considerably longer than CCOV.
"It's playing long, but I feel we're good off the tee. If you're in the fairway, it's score-able. You end up in the rough, it becomes difficult, and they have some thick rough," Abel said. "The greens are quicker than what we've been playing on. If you're going to miss (the green), it has to be in the right places."
The South Knox players have been at Country Oaks every day since the sectional. Abel said he joined the team there Monday and has mapped out to his team where the "right" misses are on every hole.
"I wanted them to go over there and play, get familiar with the holes, I wanted them to hit 20-yard shots around the greens on every hole," Abel said. "So far we've been hit or miss in practice. We'll have two, three guys play well and have one or two not as well as they have. We haven't had a score like we posted for the sectional so far."
One thing Abel noted his team needed to eliminate are the mental mistakes.
"We can't hit a 3-wood 270 yards off a bad lie," Abel said. "We need to get an iron out, knowing what club to hit and knowing where to land the ball for our next shot. It's that simple.
"Those teams we're playing with, when we played against them before, most of our guys felt they weren't much better than they were," he said. "Good players are going to have some of the same miss swings, but their misses aren't as bad and they know where to miss. They recover well too.
"Our guys aren't that far off from the top teams in the sectional. We do have to shake off the bad shot and not try to hit a 'make-up' shot as our recovery attempt."
Where: Country Oaks, Montgomery
When: 8:30 a.m. Thursday
Teams participating: South Knox, Washington, Wood Memorial, Greencastle, Seeger, Parke Heritage, Evansville North, Castle, Evansville Mater Dei, Indianapolis Park Tudor, Covenant Christian, Decatur Central, Northview, Terre Haute North, Terre Haute South, Brownsburg, Plainfield, Avon
County individual: Christian Steininger, Rivet
Advancement from regional to state finals: Top three teams; five lowest individual scores, excluding those individuals who advance with a team. Ties for fifth place must be played off in order to advance.
Last year's advancing teams: Evansville North (298), Evansville Memorial (309), Castle (313)
Last year's medalist: Adam Bratton, Castle (70)
Last year's individuals advancing: Jake Bennett, Greencastle (71), Peyton Snoeberger, Seeger (72), Isaac Rohleder, Evansville Mater Dei (73), Kasey Lilly, Plainfield (73), Jackson Franchville, Cascade (73)