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No team in the Boys’ 5th Region Golf Tournament can match Elizabethtown’s impressive credentials the last decade.
The Panthers have qualified for eight of the last nine state tournaments by finishing first or second at the region tournament. During that span, they’ve won the region championship four times, including last season.
Now, they’ll look to continue their dominance today at South Park Country Club in Louisville as coaches tab them the favorite. The tournament, which includes area schools Central Hardin, Fort Knox, John Hardin, LaRue County, Meade County and North Hardin, begins at 8:30 a.m.
“I’ve always told them I’d rather be in that spot than the other way around,” Elizabethtown coach Andy Games said. “There’s some pressure that goes with that, but that’s the way it goes.”
The Panthers are coming off a win in the Marion County Invitational at Rosewood Golf Club in Lebanon on Sept. 21. They posted a team score of 316 before taking the past week off to get prepared for the region tournament. The Panthers went to South Park twice, playing nine holes each time.
“E’town has played really good golf all year long,” Meade County coach Curt Lowndes said. “They are still the top team in the region until someone steps up and beats them. It’s going to take them having a bad day and someone else having a great day.”
Elizabethtown has two members of last year’s team back in senior Ryan Harris and Kyle Jury. Games had juggled his lineup around but settled on sophomore Javen Thomas and freshmen Garrett Valentine and Parker Haynes after how they played at Rosewood.
“I think it’s a pretty wide-open event,” Games said. “There are four or five teams that could win it. Everyone has good players in the one and two spots. It’s all going to depend on your three, four and five guys. It’s going to be a battle.”
One of those teams who have worked their way into contention is the Meade County Green Wave, who are coming off a win Saturday in the Lincoln Trail Invitational, hosted by John Hardin.
Lowndes doesn’t believe the Green Wave have ever qualified for the state tournament as a team although three individuals have advanced past region. This could be the year they break that trend.
“There are several teams that if they show up can get that second spot,” Lowndes said. “There are four or five teams that have a legitimate shot. It’s going to depend on the back end, your three through five players.”
Among the others in the mix are Louisville Butler, Bullitt East, Grayson County, Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park and Central Hardin.
“It’s going to come down to E’town and Meade County,” John Hardin coach David Allan said. “Both of them have won a tournament. There could be a surprise team, but if both of them play well, they’ll be contending for the title.”
The individual title could also be an interesting battle. Butler junior Chase Wathen has back-to-back wins at Rosewood and Lincoln Trail, but other contenders could be Central Hardin sophomore Michael Reed, LaRue County freshman Cameron Dawson and Meade County junior Spencer Hackert, as well as Jury and Harris.
Besides the top two teams who earn automatic state berths, the top three individuals not on those teams advance to the state tournament.
“It’s high school golf so there’s going to be someone step up and surprise us,” Lowndes said. “I think there are four, five or six individuals who will be competing for those spots depending on who takes the two teams spots.”
The players will also have to contend with the course, which Games said isn’t long but requires players to think their way around it. According to coaches, the fairways are lined with trees and the rough isn’t overly thick. Power isn’t a necessity but precision is.
“It looks like it’s tight, but the fairways are actually pretty wide,” Central Hardin coach Chris Adams said. “It’s similar to Doe Valley (Golf Club in Meade County). You see all the trees and you think it’s a tight course. But it’s an optical illusion. There are some places where you can’t miss a shot. Players are going to have to think they’re way around it.”
Chuck Jones can be reached at 270-505-1759 or email@example.com.