By KEVIN HARRIS
The Floyd Central boys’ golf team knew it needed to have a solid first round at the IHSAA State Finals on Tuesday at The Legends Golf Club if it intends to win a third state championship.
The Highlanders shot a stellar team score of 292 to currently stand third following the opening round of the two-round tournament. The final round of the state finals is today at Legends, starting at 8 a.m.
“We got off to a slow start, then we caught fire,” Floyd Central coach Mike Cason said. “If we could’ve gotten better scores from our No. 4 and No. 5 man, we would’ve had a great round.”
The third-ranked Highlanders were one of five teams to fire scores in the 290s. Top-ranked Columbus North is currently first with a 290, followed by No. 4 Westfield with a 291. Seventh-ranked Avon stands fourth with a 294 and No. 11 Jasper is fifth with a 295.
The team scores by the top three squads made the record books. Each score ranked among the lowest 12 single-round team scores in the history of the 77th annual state finals. The Bull Dogs’ score is the fifth-best all-time in the tournament. The Shamrocks’ 291 is in a three-way tie for the sixth-lowest all-time, while Floyd Central’s score is in a four-way deadlock for ninth.
Highlander senior Devin Jenkins made some history himself on Tuesday. He currently is in a three-way tie for first place in the individual standings with a 4-under-par 68, sharing the first-round lead with Valparaiso senior Kyle Meihofer and Zionsville junior Adam Wood.
Jenkins’ round is the 12th-lowest in state finals history. He is one shot behind ex-New Albany great and former Masters and U.S. Open champion Fuzzy Zoeller on the tourney’s all-time, 18-hole scoring list. Zoeller’s 67 in 1970 is in a five-way tie for seventh on that list.
“I’m happy with it. I was consistent all day,” Jenkins said. “I putted good and hit my driver straight. I hit fairways, which helped me a lot.”
Jenkins, who will play NCAA Division I golf next season at IPFW, made five birdies and 12 pars in the first 17 holes. His birdies came on the third, fourth, 10th, 12th and 14th holes. Jenkins’ lone blemish came on the par-4 18th, where he had to settle for bogey.
“He played solid. He was 2-under on the front nine and 2-under on the back,” Cason said. “He had one bogey and five birdies, which is phenomenal.”
Jenkins’ fantastic first round gives him a chance today to become the second golfer in Floyd Central history to earn medalist honors at the state finals. The only Highlander to win the medalist award is current Floyd Central girls’ golf coach Lenny Hartlage in 1983.
Even though Jenkins’ 68 got the most attention among the Floyd Central scores, senior Alex Beyer provided the round that put the Highlanders in the running for another state championship.
Beyer shot a 1-under 71 to place him in an eight-way tie for 10th in the individual standings. After bogeying the first two holes, Beyer sank four birdies and 11 pars during the final 16 holes with only one bogey in that stretch. Beyer made birdies on Nos. 3, 11, 13 and 17, and carded a 3-under 33 on the back nine.
What made Beyer’s 71 even more amazing was he was playing his first-ever round in the state finals.
“He was 2-over during the first two holes and then 3-under the rest of the way,” Cason said. “When a kid can come back and post a good score like that, that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
Floyd Central senior Daniel Shepard fired a 3-over 75. Shepard, who will join Jenkins at IPFW next fall, made five bogeys during the first 16 holes. However, he ended his round on a stellar note by making birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.
Highlander juniors Jack Sparrow and Connor Welch each shot a 6-under 78. Sparrow struggled on the front nine with a 41, as he made four bogeys and one double bogey along with a birdie on No. 3. He recovered a little bit on the back side with a 37, as he birdied the 10th hole and had just two bogeys.
Welch carded a 38 on the front with seven pars and two bogeys. But after nailing a birdie on No. 10, he had two bogeys and a triple bogey on No. 15 to finish with a 40 on the back side.
Floyd Central and Columbus North are very familiar with each other, especially this season. On May 25 at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Memphis, the Highlanders edged the Bull Dogs by one stroke to win the Legends of Providence Invitational.
Columbus North returned the favor in last Thursday’s Providence Regional at Champions Pointe. The Bull Dogs won their third straight regional championship with a 297, while Floyd Central placed second with a 301.
If the Highlanders are to claim another state title today, Cason says they must find a way to outshoot the Bull Dogs. Floyd Central will be paired with Columbus North during today’s final round along with Westfield and Avon.
“Everything goes through Columbus North. I still think they are the best team in the state,” Cason said. “We have to play well to beat them.”
Jenkins says it is going to take a total team effort for the Highlanders to capture the state crown.
“I think we need to have another round like this one and get everybody playing good. I feel good about [our chances],” he said.
Providence’s Mitchell Allender wound up with a 4-over 76 in the first round. Starting his round on No. 10, the sophomore shot an even-par 36 on the back nine. He had five pars and birdies on No. 11 and No. 17 along with bogeys on the 10th and 16th holes.
Allender began the front side with three pars and a birdie on No. 3 in the first four holes. After that, he had a double bogey on No. 5, a bogey on the eighth hole and a triple bogey on No. 9. Allender ended up with a 40 on the front nine, which also included a par on the sixth and a birdie on No. 7.
“I started with a 36 and I had a good round going until the last two holes and then I blew up. It got to my head,” Allender said.
One change to the state finals this season was there was no first-round cut, which means each golfer is guaranteed two rounds. Allender said he felt less stressed on the Legends links on Tuesday because he did not have to worry about the cut.
“I didn’t feel much pressure out there,” Allender said. “I just played relaxed and I did that for 17 holes.”
Providence coach Ken Allender, who also is the younger Allender’s father, thinks his son was ready to get the final round under way after he struggled down the stretch on Tuesday.
“He told me as soon as he turned his scorecard in that he wants to get back on that course [today], so he’s not really happy with how he finished. I think he’ll go back out and give it a good go again [today],” the Pioneers’ coach said. “He played pretty solid most of the day. He made one double [on the fifth hole]. I think the wind got it and took it to a bad spot. The last couple of holes, he was even-par and it looked like he was a little indecisive on what club to hit off the tee box and then he tried to make up for a bad shot. But overall, I thought he played really solid.”
IHSAA STATE FINALS
At The Legends Golf Club, Franklin, par 72
Team scores: Columbus North 290, Westfield 291, Floyd Central 292, Avon 294, Jasper 295, Evansville Memorial 300, Valparaiso 300, Fort Wayne Dwenger 302, Hamilton Southeastern 304, Carmel 306, Warsaw 306, Pendleton Heights 308, Noblesville 309, Terre Haute North 311, Triton 313.
First-round leaders: Devin Jenkins (FC) 68, Kyle Meihofer (Valpo) 68, Adam Wood (Zionsville) 68.
Floyd Central: Jenkins 68, Daniel Shepard 75, Alex Beyer 71, Jack Sparrow 78, Connor Welch 78.
Providence: Mitchell Allender 76.
WEDNESDAY’S TEE TIMES
8:18 a.m. — Mitchell Allender, Providence (10th hole)
9:21 a.m. — Connor Welch, Floyd Central (first hole)
9:30 a.m. — Jack Sparrow, Floyd Central (first)
9:39 a.m. — Alex Beyer, Floyd Central (first)
9:48 a.m. — Daniel Shepard, Floyd Central (first)
9:57 a.m. — Devin Jenkins, Floyd Central (first)