The two county boys’ golf teams that participate in the Hoosier Heartland Conference begin their seasons this week. Here’s a look at Clinton Prairie and Rossville.
Clinton Prairie’s top two golfers from a season ago, seniors Grant Doyle and Shane Thomas, are back for the Gophers. They were also the top two Gopher scorers in the sectional, scoring an 88 and 95, respectively. They both also made the all-conference team, with Thomas placing seventh and Doyle eighth.
Prairie head coach Aaron Coe said Doyle has high expectations for season, and is hopeful Doyle can advance to the regional at season’s end.
“He’s definitely dedicated a lot of his time to golf and it’s clearly his No. 1 sport,” Doyle said. “He’s won some tournaments and he’s been successful. I know it’s his goal to get out of sectionals and he has the ability to do it.
“He’s pretty consistent in every area. The best part of his game is the fact that, mentally, he has gone away from trying to be the perfect golfer to a golfer that can handle himself when he’s not hitting the ball perfectly.”
Thomas is a four-year varsity starter who began as No. 4-5 golfer his freshman year and worked his way to one of the top spots.
“He doesn’t go extremely low but he never goes high either,” Coe said. “He’s right around his average and his average has gotten better overall the past four years. He’s gotten off to some slow starts every year but I just think this will be his best year.”
Junior Grant Miller and senior Alec Vantuinen – who played junior varsity golf at McCutcheon as a sophomore – are expected to be the No. 3 and 4 golfers. There are a chorus of others competing for the fifth spot, including sophomore Noah Freestone, freshman Jacob Price, freshman Doug Coapstick and sophomore Wes Wolff.
The Hornets will likely take a huge step back this year after the loss of their top two golfers in Anthony Zachman and Jay Shideler, both of which qualified for the regional as individuals.
“I think we’re lucky in the sense that we do have a course here in town, and because of that we don’t get hurt as bad by being a small school,” said Rossville head coach Chad Geheb. “But when you’re talking about the caliber of Anthony Zachman and Jay Shideler, you can’t help but maybe take a step back and rebuild a bit.”
Rossville does have two varsity players returning in junior Austin Miller and sophomore Kaleb Harness, both of who will be battling for the No. 1 spot.
Expected to round out the top five junior are Nick Whittle, sophomore Conner Remaly and freshman Austin Treece.
“We’ve sprinkled in some young talent from last year’s JV,” Geheb said. “We may struggle a little bit, especially given the weather in the spring but I really think there’s some potential here for this group to where we were last year. It just may not be as quick.”
But the rest of the roster – senior Eli Wilson, junior Curtis Conklin and senior Seth Waldron – is also capable of cracking the top five.
“We may not be as top-heavy but we have seven guys who I think all potentially could find their way into those top five spots and that makes for a competitive practice environment,” Geheb said.
There was a Clinton Central golf team in the beginning of the preseason, coached by Roger Howe, that had four players on the squad. But after one player became eligible due to grades, the decision was made to disband the team for this season, said Central head coach Eric Flickinger.
“Basically the rest of the team didn’t want to do it. They weren’t really into it,” Flickinger said.
This isn’t the first time in recent history Central hasn’t had a golf team. There wasn’t a team in the 2009 and 2010 seasons before coming back in 2011.
“We’re definitely going to try to pick it back up next year,” Flickinger said. “I don’t plan on it being a permanent thing. We just got to get kids interested in it enough in order to have enough for a team.”