Times Sports Editor
The playing field for today's Washington Golf Regional should be quite even and a bit of a new experience for most of the teams and individuals competing for a shot at the IHSAA State Finals.
Country Oaks Golf Course plays the new host for the regional after moving from Christmas Lake hosted the past several years.
Located in Montomgery, one of the positives to the switch is a decidedly shorter drive for qualifiers from the Owen Valley Sectional.
Terre Haute South, Northview and Linton make the trip to Country Oaks, which is located on a 140-acre farm complete with an old dairy barn that houses the golf shop, maintenance and golf cart storage facility.
A large white silo also adds a rustic feel to the course, standing near the first tee and shadowing the 18th.
The combination provides a unique feel to a course that will provide qualified golfers from the Jasper, Evansville Mater Dei, Vincennes Lincoln and Owen Valley Sectionals.
Gregg Sims, a co-manager at the course as well as a former sports writer, feels that the course should provide a challenge to the competitors.
"We're very happy to be hosting the regional," said Sims. "I think we have a nice facility here and it's very challenging, but fair to the competitors."
Three ranked teams are making the trip with No. 8 Evansville Central qualifying after winning the Evansville Mater Dei Sectional with a team score of 291. Terre Haute South shot a 299 to best the Owen Valley field and are ranked ninth and Castle, second to the Bears at Evansville, are an honorable mention.
Northview placed eighth last year and are hoping for a top-three team spot, which would qualify the team for the state finals played at The Legends Course in Franklin. The Knights last qualified for the finals in 2000 after finishing second to Evansville North at the Heritage Hills Regional. The next year Northview missed out on a finals berth by just three strokes, finishing fourth.
With some of the state's top prep golfers taking on the course today, Sims believes the course is in prime condition to provide teams with a good test of their abilities.
"The course will be set up to play at about 6,800 yards with the par-3 and par-5's being played from the blue tees," said Sims. "We have some high natural grass that provides hazards, but don't have many bunkers. It's not a links course, but we do have some water."
As far as favoring certainly types of players, Sims feels that Country Oaks is balanced, but concedes that accuracy will play a large role in a player's success.
"If you hit straight and accurate, you can score well on this course," commented Sims. "I think having some length will be beneficial, but we're expecting some windy conditions. Winds are supposed to be around 20 miles per hour, so if the winds are prevailing from the southwest, than a player that controls his ball well should have success."
Players will be hitting over water off the tee on the 388-yard third hole, a par-4, and back across the same body of water on the fourth hole, a 357-yard par-4 as well. The green on the fourth hole is nestled alongside a right side bunker that borders the water as well making accuracy key.
The 12th hole has water bordering much of the fairway on the left side, which places the emphasis on tee shot placement.
On the back-nine, the short par-3 11th hole forces competitors to fire over water with a small landing area in front of the green, but coming up short on a tee shot will leave a golfer soggy.
The course also has a tough finishing hole that won't allow golfers to relax on their way into the clubhouse.
The nearly 300-yard par-4 18th hole has water running the entirety of the hole along the left side.
"The 18th hole will play right at 300 yards," said Sims. "There's water that runs along the side. Guys will have to stay composed to finish well."
The Knights' team of Kade Baker, Matt Williams, Drew Snyder, Ryan Turner and Daniel Eaglin planned on leaving Wednesday in order to get a practice round in at Country Oaks and familiarize themselves with the course before today's regional.
With this being the first year for the regional to be played at Washington, most teams will be in the same boat, literally if you take the recent weather into account. Few teams will have first hand notes on the course before playing a practice round.
Sims, for one, is excited about the opportunity for his course to hold this type of tourney.
"It's certainly an honor (to host the regional)," said Sims. "We're happy to host it and we'll do our best to put on a good show for the fans. The greens have good pace, but will hold well struck shots. We look forward to the opportunity to entertain the fans and to see some excellent golf from these young men."
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