Center Grove boys golf claims state title

By Grady Michael Gaynor

The No. 4 ranked Center Grove High School Boys Golf team came into the final round of the IHSAA State Championship down three strokes from the lead, and trailing both No. 1 Guerin Catholic and No. 2 Carmel. However, their focus on their mission to reclaim the title for their school, which has barely escaped them in recent years, remained sharp. After winning the state championship in 2017, the Trojans came runner up in both 2018 and 2019. The 2020 state championship was cancelled due to covid-19.

The boys battled back, and traded the lead with both Carmel and Guerin in an electric final round of golf. However, the trophy came down to the final hole, and the final stroke. After a bogey on 16, and a triple bogey on 17, CG’s Senior Sam Slaughter came into the final hole knowing that he needed to beat Guerin Catholic Senior Sam White, who triple bogeyed the par five hole. Trailing by one stroke, and not owning the tie breaker, CG needed Slaughter to defeat his score by two.

With the guidance of Head Coach Matthew Rodman, Slaughter executed shot after shot, and put himself in position to hit the championship clinching putt. Slaughter mentally prepared for his shot, stepped up, and hit the ball in the hole. It was then that the emotions finally came roaring out.

“After sinking that putt on 18,” Slaughter said, “I felt all the work myself, my teammates, and my coaches put in all season pay off in the most spectacular way. Seeing us all celebrating a state championship… It’s a feeling I can’t describe, but I will never forget.”

Slaughter catapulted his winning ball into the Prairie View Golf Course woods, and ran to the arms of his coach and teammates, who shared tears of joy, and shouts of triumph.

Rodman believes his team was so successful because of talent, practice, and the team dynamic.

“This is a very tight knit group of boys. They swim together, play cards, stay at each other’s houses, but most of all… these kids golf. They encourage each other to be their very best. That “very best” got them a state championship.”

“Winning state was an unreal experience. Not only was it special for me, but my teammates, friends, and family who have been by my side supporting me along the way,” All-State Junior Luke Beetz said, “It did not really set in until I was given an outpouring of congratulatory texts from my friends and family.”

All-State Junior Sam Hord also credits the team’s success to Rodman’s leadership.

“Without a doubt our coach was the biggest contributor to leading us on this championship run. He has experience winning a championship before and he made sure that we never got too high or too low on ourselves.” Hord said, “That level headed mindset was a big advantage coming into those last few holes. I believe coach will continue to do what he does and make a solid top 5 that will be competitive at any tournament.”

The Royals plan to come back next year eager for more. Junior Drew Rowen said, “Now that we just won a state championship, I think we are going to be even hungrier to reach that same goal next season.”

Rounding out the group of five is Senior Brandon Heffner, who will miss his experience on this team, and believes in their future.

“I think we were successful because of our close bond throughout the season. I’m glad to go out on such a high note. I’m going to miss the remaining guys on the team, but they have a good foundation for success next year.”

Both Slaughter and Heffner will join the Marian University golf team next year. Hord, Beetz, and Rowen will return to CG Golf for their senior season and strive to defend their title.