By Jake Thompson
FRANKLIN — After the first day of competition at the IHSAA golf state tournament at The Legends Golf Club, the Avon Orioles have positioned themselves nicely as they head into the final round.
Avon (294) finished fourth, just four strokes off leader Columbus North (290). Westfield (291) finished third with Floyd Central (292) behind them.
With the top five coming in within five strokes of one another, the state title is up for grabs. And with the way the Orioles finished their day, they have a solid chance to bring home the hardware.
The Orioles shot one-under par as a team on the back nine and built some strong momentum.
“They played well and finished strong,” Avon coach Tom Maples said. “We’ve got some good mojo going into tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun day.”
Keegan McKinney and Mark Whipple each shot a one-under 71.
Whipple finished with two consecutive birdies to dip under par and hit 17 of 18 greens on the day.
“I hit the ball really well and it was a little windy out there, but definitely scoreable,” Whipple said. “I felt pretty good about my round and I’m feeling pretty good. We’ve got some low scores out there right now with a bunch of teams up near the top. I think if we throw a number like we did today, we’ve got a good shot as scores are usually higher tomorrow.”
McKinney collected three birdies on the day but felt like he left a few strokes on the course, something he hopes to remedy.
“It was a really frustrating round,” McKinney said. “I played the par-five’s one-over, but I hit a lot of really good iron shots, just no putts went in for me today. I’m in there individually and our team’s there, more importantly.”
Joe Floreancig and Brad Patz each carded 76’s. Floreancig made the turn four-over par and had gotten to one-over before a double bogey and bogey on holes 16 and 17 pushed him back. Patz birdied two of his last five holes.
“Floreancig had it really going on in the back nine through his first six holes back there,” Maples said.
Sophomore Luke Berger was nine-over after the front, but came back and shot even par on the back, carding an 81. Berger’s final nine holes caught the eye of his coach as he started the momentum swing for the Orioles as he finished first.
“We had a conversation on the tenth green and said it’s probably not going to work out today but we need you tomorrow,” Maples said.
With the way the Orioles played their collective final nine holes, Maples has great optimism heading into tomorrow. The forecast is for the low 90s and Maples hurried his team to the bus after the round so they were able to get off their feet and get as much rest as possible.
“It will wear some people out, but the adrenaline of the state finals will keep people in it a little bit,” Whipple said. “Hopefully, we go out and play well again.”