HENRYVILLE — Humid conditions, temperatures in the mid-80s and soft grounds, thanks to Wednesday evening's rains, made for a grueling day on the course for Thursday's Providence Regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club.
Floyd Central, seeking the seventh regional title in the proud history of the program, came up short in that quest but compiled a score of 301 — 10 shots behind victorious Center Grove — that was good enough for second place and a 19th overall trip to the IHSAA State Finals.
"That was our goal the whole year. We still have some goals we want to meet," said junior Reece Compton, who led the Highlanders with a 1-over-par 73 that tied for fifth on the overall individual leaderboard.
The eighth-ranked Highlanders are hoping to improve next week upon last year's 10th-place finish at state. Harrison Eades, the lone senior in the Floyd Central lineup, shot 74 for his best-ever round at Champions Pointe.
"I went double [bogey], bogey to start on 1 and 2," Eades said. "I kind of shot myself in the foot there."
But Eades birdied the par-3 fourth and the par-5 sixth to regain his footing.
"My putting was working well for me today. I just put myself in tough situations. The chipping could have been better today," he said.
Sophomore Christian McIntosh shot 77 and Floyd Central's fourth score came from Ben Howell. The freshman posted a 77 and was 2-over going into No. 16 before finishing with three straight bogeys.
"Ben Howell came up huge," Floyd coach Brett Eades said. "He shot 90 in his qualifying round. He and [fellow freshman] Max Zoeller had to compete [for the fifth spot]. It's the difference in us getting second or third place."
It was far from the best day for New Albany senior Nolan Keeler in what he hoped would not be his final round as a Bulldog.
Keeler was shooting for his first state-qualifying regional round, but saw his career — and stellar senior season — come to a close Thursday with a 78. Keeler was sitting at even-par through his first eight holes and 1-over following the back nine. However, he saw his fortunes take a sour turn.
"He's put a lot of time and effort into it and preparing for this round," New Albany coach Rick Belcher said. "It started with a lapse of focus on No. 1. He had a 15-foot birdie putt and three-putted. He missed it short, uphill. You're thinking birdie on No. 1 and he gets bogey."
Keeler then ended up with a double-bogey on the par-3 second.
"For him, it's a pretty short iron and it looked good [off the tee]," Belcher said. "He came up short and went in the bunker. It plugged into the lip just below and he had to take an unplayable out of there. He went from even-par to three holes later, 4-over par. From then on he's pressing. With seven holes to play, he gave a couple more back on those next couple holes trying to press."
Keeler will go on to play at Marian University next season.
"He's worked so hard. He's a great player. He's going to be fine. He's going to do well in college. I told him you've got four more years. It'll sting for a few days," Belcher said.
For Compton, he started with a 34 on the front nine and was in position to post one of the three lowest scores of the day before having some trouble at the finish.
The key to his round was the final four holes of the front nine.
"I had a two-putt birdie on the par-5 sixth. On [No.] 7, I get in some trouble and got up and down. On [Nos.] 8 and 9, I made a 12-footer and then an 18-footer for birdie. So I was 3-under on those holes," Compton said. "I hit in the water on 10 and managed a bogey on that. I birdied 16 to get to 2-under for the day and then struggled in. I doubled 17 and bogeyed 18, so it was a disappointing way to finish."
Providence senior Caleb Popp also saw his prep career come to a close with an 88 after recovering from a disastrous start.
"He takes a triple on the first hole and a 10 on three, so he's 8-over after three holes and still comes back and shoots a 45. On the backside, he gets some steam up," Providence coach Victor Beeler said. "It's a grueling day. I was proud of him. He didn't quit, kept on playing. He's been a great leader for our team all year. We're playing one senior, three sophomores and a couple freshmen. He's given our program someone to look up to."
Henryville's Westin Allen shot 78.
"Westin played 15 holes very well," Hornets coach Robin Embry said. "However, the doubles at three, five and nine really cost him. He’s a quality young man and had a solid season. There’s no question, he’s one of the top players in the area. But there’s room for improvement with him and his teammates. Hopefully, they’ll work to have a really good season next spring."