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Giants top Panthers in impromptu golf match

SHORT GAME: Eastbrook’s Noah Ross chips onto the third green at Meshingomesia Wednesday evening as the Panthers and Marion both opened their 2018 golf seasons. The Giants won the impromptu match, 164-185.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

Mother Nature's brief respite from wintery conditions provided an opportunity for the golf teams from Marion and Eastbrook to schedule an impromptu competition at Meshingomesia Golf and Social Club on Wednesday evening.

It's been sometime since the Giants and Panthers convened for a regular season dual match, and with both teams already losing their first matches of the season to poor conditions. In one of his first acts after returning to Marion as athletic director, Steve Moritz called Eastbrook coach Adlai Diesler Tuesday evening and the match came together very quickly.

"I've got to credit (Steve) Moritz. He called me up and said 'Hey, you want to play' and I said 'Yeah, and I'd like to make this a permanent thing'" Diesler said. "He said consider it done. We've never had Marion as a dual. I think he might put an emphasis on playing some county teams, and I like that."

Though neither team has had much time outside to practice and play, both teams flashed some potential for what could be an exciting regular season. 

Seth Beal birdied his final two holes to shoot 37 and lead Marion to a 164-185 win over the Panthers. Luke Leffler added a 39 for the Giants while Eastbrook was led by Noah Ross who shot a 41.

"I had some bad bogeys, but 37 is pretty good for the first time," Beal said. "We've had enough practices to get somewhat good scores out there. We've been getting out when we can, with this weather you can't really do anything in it."

The Giants also used a 43 from Connor Moritz and a 45 by Caleb Oliver in their stroke total. Amonte King and Donte Whitton both shot 46.

"I'm very encouraged in the way they played and the way they stepped up," said Giants coach Jerry Freshwater. "All five golfers played good for us and did some good things. With the weather the way it is, I'm real proud of the way they played today.

"Connor played well. He had a couple of bad holes but it shows me he's not looking at that one bad hole," he added. "He's moving on and moving forward...and doing the things he needs to do mentally to not worry about that last hole. He had a pretty good outing for the first time." 

For many of the Panthers, including Ross, Wednesday was their first-ever trip around Meshingomesia, and it provided a tough challenge.

"I've never played this course before and it can be tricky," Ross said. "I didn't know a lot of the green locations. I didn't know where to put my drives in order to get a good approach shot. I only hit two greens in regulation so that was really bad. My putting was alright, the greens were really true. I enjoyed the greens out here. They were a little slow, but I think that's just because the weather and the wetness. Forty-one is about what I could expect given how I was hitting the ball."

Diesler said his team has only been on their home course at Arbor Trace about five times so far in what has become a very frustrating spring for most spring teams and athletes.

It's been particularly hard for the Panthers, as Diesler tries to fill three of his top-five spots after graduation losses from last season.

"It's been, in a word, awful," Diesler said of Eastbrook's spring. "We've now had 11 practices and five of them have been at the course. We spent two straight practices watching a Phil Mickelson short game documentary, which I think was good. Sometimes its good to hear from the best in the world and hear how they do it. Lots of putting on carpet.

"Eleven practices on April 11 is not ideal," he added. "We can have contact in late January and we normally get out a few days in February, but there was none of that. It's been awful."

With little practice time outside and a new course, Diesler was pleased and encouraged by his team's play on Wednesday.

The Panthers played without No. 2 golfer, senior Jeffrey Duckwall, who was competing in a mechanical engine competition. Collin Burman and Cody Everling each shot a 47 while Gaven Bright finished with 50 to round out Eastbrook's scoring players. Calvin Ochs' 55 was dropped.

Overall, Diesler said the experience and results were a positive. 

"By no means is this course hard if you're used to it, but it's a course you have to think around," Diesler said.

What Diesler hopes to use the rest of the spring, aside from figuring out who will be his three, four and five golfers on a regular basis, is simply for his players to become more consistent. Not only for this year, but the future as well.

"We lose two this year, (Duckwall and Ochs), but I've got a lot left," Diesler said. "It's not going to be like last year where we lose our main people. We're going to lose role players this year so we can really build on this season into next season regardless."

As for this season, the potential for Eastbrook is still yet unknown.

Diesler believes Ross can compete for Grant Four, Central Indiana Conference and sectional championships, and believes advancing out of sectional is a possibility.

"My goal is to advance out of sectionals. It may be a bit lofty, but I hope to take medalist if I play the way I know I can play," Ross said. "For the team it would be really nice to advance out of sectionals, but we lost three seniors last year so I don't know how likely that is. But, I think if we all play the best we can we have a shot at it."

Diesler agreed.

"Like Noah said, is it crazy to think we could get out? Maybe, but all five of those guys that played tonight, you never know what they're going to do," he said. "It just started tonight and we've got a lot of season left."