By KEVIN HARRIS
Throughout the regular season, it appeared that the Corydon Central boys’ golf team had a great shot of unseating perennial-power Floyd Central as the Providence Sectional champion.
It did not materialize in Monday’s sectional at Covered Bridge Golf Club.
The 15th-ranked Highlanders retained their sectional title by posting a team score of 299. It was Floyd Central’s 12th consecutive sectional championship and its 25th overall.
Last Thursday, the Highlanders won an 18-hole quadrangular meet at Covered Bridge against Corydon, Providence and New Albany, posting a team score of 295. Floyd Central coach Mike Cason said winning that meet boosted his players self-esteem entering the sectional.
“A lot of golf is confidence and that round on Thursday gave us the confidence to beat Corydon and Providence,” Cason said. “Our team has struggled all year frankly. To put it together at the end and watch these kids improve is real satisfying to me as a coach. The kids ought to be really proud of what they’ve done.”
Eighth-ranked Corydon finished second six strokes behind the Highlanders with a 305. The Panthers were vying for their first sectional title since 1966.
Providence also shot a 305 but settled for third place because Corydon won the tiebreaker for the lowest No. 5-player score.
The top three teams and top three individuals on non-advancing squads qualified for Thursday’s Providence Regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Memphis.
“If you look at the scores, we went [6-over-par] as a team the last two holes. It probably cost us a legitimate shot at tying or winning. We just kind of faltered there at the end,” Pioneers’ coach Ken Allender said. “But we’re playing better as we’ve gone along. Our scores have been coming down the last couple of months. We’ve really been improving. So for us to get back into the game and legitimately have a shot and do advance out of sectional is a pretty good accomplishment.”
It was a great day for Floyd Central’s Connor Welch.
The Highlander senior collected sectional medalist honors for the first time in his career, firing a 4-under-par 68. Welch made six birdies and 10 pars while recording only two bogeys.
“It feels great,” Welch said. “I’ve been working at it for a long time and it’s finally all coming together. I’ve been knocking it close for the past couple of weeks. I’m starting to make putts.”
It was Welch’s second 68 in a row at Covered Bridge, as he earned medalist honors with that score last Thursday.
“It gave him confidence — no doubt about it,” Cason said. “Obviously, he’s playing really good. He’s been capable of this all year. He just hasn’t put it altogether until the end here, which is good for our team.”
Two Floyd Central golfers carded scores in the 70s on Monday. Junior Clayton Crum shot a 2-over 74, while senior Jack Sparrow fired a 77. The Highlanders’ David Shepard and Billy Sleight had an 80 and 81, respectively.
“Clayton has really started to play well. He’s really helping us,” Cason said. “Jack had a solid round, but he’s capable of doing better. I expect we will get more out of him the rest of the way.”
Sophomore Kevin Crone led the Pioneers by earning second-lowest medalist honors with an even-par 72. Crone had birdies on the fourth, 10th and 12th holes and made 12 pars.
Teammate Mitchell Allender finished tied for third-lowest medalist with Corydon’s Mitchell Frederick with a 1-over 73. The younger Allender knocked in three birdies and had 11 pars.
“I’ve got the second- and third-lowest medalist in the whole thing, so you’ve got to be proud of how they played,” Coach Allender said. “They hit a lot of good shots. They were both 2-under through about 14 holes, and I think towards the end they just started pressing a little bit.
“I’ve told them all year that they’ve got to be down around par for us to have a chance to advance [out of sectional] and a chance to win. But I think they both just started pressing a little bit hard at the end.”
Sophomore Max Leist was the other Pioneer to shoot in the 70’s, carding a 78. Also for Providence, Evan Wilson scored an 82 and Erich Day recorded an 88.
The top three golfers on non-advancing teams who earned regional berths are all from the Clark-Floyd area.
Silver Creek junior Sam Garr got his second straight regional spot with a 77. Starting his round at the 10th hole, Garr shot a 40 on the back nine despite beginning his day with a birdie. He pared the final four holes to record a 37 on the front side and get him out of sectional.
“He started off good and you always want to start well. He stayed away from the big numbers,” Dragons’ coach Joe Ledbetter said. “What I’m most proud of Sam for is he has gone through a complete swing change. Sam is loaded with potential. He has matured as a golfer.”
Borden sophomore Kamden Hurst matched Garr’s round with a 77, becoming the first golfer in Braves’ history to qualify for regional. Hurst started his round with bogeys on each of the first three holes. But he bounced back by paring 13 of the final 15 holes.
“He held his composure,” Borden coach Tony Wagoner II said. “Instead of worrying about bad shots, he moved on and tried to hit some good shots.”
New Albany junior Kunal Bhanushali got the final individual regional berth. After firing a 79, he had to face Crawford County’s Tyson Sloan in a playoff for the final spot. At the par-4 first hole, Bhanushali bested Sloan with a birdie to move on to regional. Bhanushali shot 37 on the front nine and 42 on the back.
Bhanushali helped the Bulldogs finish fourth with a 343. Rounding out the scoring for New Albany were Ethan Hunter with an 82, Cameron Walter with an 87 and Jonny Smith with a 95. Bulldogs’ sophomore Addisson Greenwell was in position to earn a regional berth with a 75, but his score later got disqualified.
Silver Creek was seventh, followed by Borden (351) in eighth, Jeffersonville (371) in 10th and Eastern (422) in 11th. Phil Polston had the Dragons’ second-lowest score with an 84. The Braves’ Tony Wagoner III fired an 83. Evan Craig had the Red Devils’ lowest score with an 88, while Nick Emmert led Eastern with a 92.
Corydon’s Timothy Wiseman and Ryan Crawford shot 74 and 78, respectively. Also for the Panthers, Steven Coleman had an 80 and Tommy Wiseman carded an 82.
At Covered Bridge G.C., Sellersburg, par 72
(Top three teams and top three individuals on non-advancing squads qualified for Thursday’s Providence Regional.)
Team scores: Floyd Central 299, Corydon Central 305, Providence 305, New Albany 343, North Harrison 345, Crawford County 347, Silver Creek 349, Borden 351, South Central 364, Jeffersonville 371, Eastern 422.
Medalist: Connor Welch (FC) 68.
Top three individuals: 1. Welch 68, 2. Kevin Crone (P) 72, 3. (tie) Mitchell Allender (P), Mitchell Frederick (Co) 73.
Top three individuals on non-advancing teams: Sam Garr (Si) 77, Kamden Hurst (B) 77, Kunal Bhanushali (NA) 79*.
Floyd Central: Jack Sparrow 77, Welch 68, Clayton Crum 74, David Shepard 80, Billy Sleight 81.
Corydon Central: Timothy Wiseman 74, Frederick 73, Ryan Crawford 78, Tommy Wiseman 82, Steven Coleman 80.
Providence: Crone 72, Allender 73, Max Leist 78, Evan Wilson 82, Erich Day 88.
New Albany: Greenwell DQ, Jonny Smith 95, Bhanushali 79, Cameron Walter 87, Ethan Hunter 82.
North Harrison: Joseph Hinton 83, Chase Spencer 82, Shawn Bishop 87, Austin Davis 93, Evan Longacre 95.
Crawford County: Cameron Sillings 105, Christopher Cook 87, Tyson Sloan 79, Ty Stevens 91, Jacob Sherron 90.
Silver Creek: Garr 77, Ryan Baker 93, Cody Zimmerman 103, Phil Polston 84, Jacob Harper 95.
Borden: Reilly Gray 86, Tony Wagoner III 83, K. Hurst 77, Carter Hurst 105, Josh Nunn 131.
South Central: Henry Hentrup 80, Brayden Stopinski 86, Sutton Day 105, Parker Gabhart 93, Cody Johnson 123.
Jeffersonville: Jake Melin 99, Andrew Baldwin 90, Dillon Willis 95, Evan Craig 88, Blayze Damron 98.
Eastern: Nick Emmert 92, Evin Young 95, Evan Shaffer 119, Connor Hoke 116.
Lanesville: Andrew Kennedy 96, Joseph Ferree 103, Jon Ferree 99, Stephen Shaffer DQ.
* — earned regional spot in one-hole playoff.