By Jake Thompson
— A long bus ride home from Hickory Stick Golf Club last season — after missing the cut to advance to the state finals for the first time in six years — gave the Avon boys’ golf team a lot to consider.
In fact, that’s about all the returning players thought about from that moment until Thursday’s regional at Country Oaks Golf Course. Especially since the Orioles missed moving on last year by a single stroke.
This year’s ride home was more on par with what Avon had grown accustomed to as the Orioles took home the regional championship, carding a 296.
“Obviously, it’s two completely different bus trips, but it was giddy with a bunch of kids being kids and clowning around,” Avon coach Tom Maples said. “Going to a new regional site at a course we hadn’t seen before against a bunch of teams we really didn’t know much about going into it, for them to go down to their neck of the woods and bring home a regional championship is really special. I couldn’t be more happy for the boys.”
Avon’s Mark Whipple shot a 2-under par 70 for second place. Whipple (70), Keegan McKinney (72), Joe Floreancig (76), Brad Patz (78), and Luke Berger (78) made up the Orioles’ scoring.
“Mark struck it great,” Maples said. “He had two big chip-ins, one for an eagle and another for birdie. Great, great outing for Mark.”
All of the Orioles shot under 80 in the sectional and regional matches.
“I feel like we are starting to peak at this point and time,” Maples said. “Mark and Keegan are in the low 70s and are capable of 60s. Luke, Brad and Joe are down where we need them to be to compete at the state finals.”
Unfortunately for Brownsburg, the Bulldogs were in a similar position as the Orioles were last year as they shot a 304 and placed third, but were bumped out due to their fifth score.
Like Avon, Brownsburg had started to peak here at the end of the season, making the result that much more difficult.
“It was sort of one minute happy and the next sad type of thing,” Brownsburg coach Steve Brown said. “It was heartbreaking for the kids and a big letdown for all of us. They exceeded my expectations with how we did.”
As he did all season, Derek Hettmansperger led the Bulldogs, carding a 73, and combined with Alec Brown (79), Luke Kelly (74), Kasey Cross (85) and Kyle Dafoe (78), made up Brownsburg’s scoring.
Although it was the fifth-place score that led to the tiebreak, Brown said all of the guys felt they left a stroke or two on the course that could have made the difference.
“The team talked and over six hours of golf with five different golfers, one stroke could be had in a lot of different places,” Brown said.
While Hettmansperger and Kelly shot low scores, neither advanced to the state finals on an individual basis.
Plainfield’s Johnny Gulley (77) and Chris Heckman (79) also failed to advance to the state finals after moving out of the Martinsville regional as one of the top three individuals.
Avon begins state finals action on a course it is very familiar with beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 11 at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. All teams and individuals will play 36 holes over two days this season as opposed to making a cut on the first day of play.
“We are real excited,” Maples said. “We are going down Saturday and Monday to practice and get our preparation time in that we need and we’ll be ready to go on Tuesday.”