Regional too tough for SK, Steininger
South Knox's golf coach Zach Abel described the season as a "roller coaster," with enough uphills and downhills to rival any ride at an amusement park.
But all rides come to an end, and a lot of times the final stretch is not all that exhilarating.
The form the Spartans exhibited in taking the Vincennes Sectional last Friday didn't make the trip to the Washington Regional on Thursday at Country Oaks. South Knox couldn't keep the ride going and placed 10th in the 18-team field with a 340.
Tristen Dubbs made a bold attempt to qualify for the State Finals as one of the top five individuals among non-qualifying teams. The junior shot a 3-over-par 75, but was two shots above a three-player playoff for two spots to advance to Prairie View G.C. in Carmel. The 36-hole final is next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Coleton Hostetler carded an 85 for the Spartans, Lucas Beard 88 and Rahul Bajaj 92 to complete the scoring. Zac Schmidt had 112. It also was the season-ender for Rivet's Christian Steininger. The freshman qualified as an individual to the regional and shot a 90.
No. 11 Evansville North defeated neighbor Castle, 297-301, for the regional title. Plainfield, led by medalist Kasey Lilly's 5-under-par 67, was the third and last team to advance with a 307.
Country Oaks is a considerably bigger course than the sectional layout at the Country Club of Old Vincennes, but South Knox had big aspirations playing in its third consecutive regional. The team placed ninth in last year's regional, and Abel said he was hoping for a top-five finish and a 320 score earlier in the week.
Instead the Spartans shot 23 strokes higher than a week ago.
"We knew going in it was going to take a monster number. Everything had to fall our way, like a pitcher throwing a perfect game," Abel said. "We can't be disappointed. We probably finished about where we should have, in the middle of the pack."
The trouble started midway through the front nine for South Knox and the team score ballooned to 176 at the turn. The back-nine score was much better, a 164.
"Tristen played solidly for someone who didn't have his 'A' game. He managed the course well and fought through some miscues. It's a bummer that he didn't get in that playoff. I'm sure he could go back and find two shots he gave away," Abel said. "But it's encouraging that we have a junior who is close to qualifying for state. We haven't had a player like that since (current PGA player) Adam Schenk.
"Coleton was 1-under through five and then went 7-over on the next two holes. He said he was done, and I thought he was going to be in the 90s. It was respectable that he came in at 85."
Washington, which fell by one stroke to the Spartans in last week's sectional, edged them by four shots Thursday for ninth place at 336. Wood Memorial, the third team to advance out of the Vincennes Sectional, was 13th at 349.
"I was kind of upset that Washington beat us, but I'll let them have ninth as long as we got the sectional last week," Abel said.
The coach was upbeat about the season that concluded 82-31.
"It was another great season to build on. We've finished second, first and first in the last three sectionals, and that's with guys who all play well but are not really an individual standout," Abel said. "It's exciting to be a part of. It shows hard work does pay off and guys buy in when you're winning."
Steininger, like the Spartans, couldn't extend the season past Thursday but can be comforted by the fact that he might have three more tries at it.
Evansville Memorial had two of the five lowest individuals. Ben Hoagland had the best score in that group with a 69 and teammate Justin Drake shot 71. Seeger's Peyton Snoeberger also was at 71, and Avon's Tyler Nickol and Tri-West's Taylor Gardner were the winners of the three-man playoff for the final two spots at 73.