GOSHEN — Golf tournaments don’t get much tighter than Friday’s Fairfield Sectional at Black Squirrel Golf Club.
Four strokes separated the top three teams, and the fourth-place team - the team left outside looking in and failing to advance to next week’s regional tournament — was just two strokes behind the top three.
Elkhart Memorial won the sectional on a blustery, chilly, drizzly late-spring day with a 326. Northridge was second with a 327, followed by Lakeland with a 330.
Elkhart Central was fourth (332), followed by Concord in fifth (332); NorthWood sixth (343); Fairfield seventh (346); Goshen eighth (352); Westview ninth (374); Elkhart Christian 10th (380); Prairie Heights 11th (382); Jimtown 12th (427) and Bethany Christian 13th (465).
Memorial, Northridge and Lakeland, plus the top three individuals not on an advancing team will move on to the Homestead Regional tournament, set for next Thursday and Friday at Orchard Ridge in Fort Wayne.
Elkhart Central’s Jeffrey Bradford (75); Fairfield’s Zach Hochstedler (77) and Elkhart Christian’s Alec Dutkowski (78) advanced as individuals. Dutkowski defeated Concord’s Timothy Johnson in a one-hole playoff to claim the final advancing spot.
From the regional, the top three teams, plus the top three individuals not on an advancing team will move on to the state tournament, set for June 12-13 at the Legends of Indiana in Franklin.
On Friday, teams battled miserable conditions all day long, as a nagging, drizzling rain hung around and refused to lift.
Fairfield coach Rand Schrock said the conditions were tough, but they didn’t excuse his team’s play.
“The conditions were the same for everyone out there,” Schrock said. “You have to show up.”
Still, the day wasn’t a total washout for the Falcons, who will send their No. 1, Hochstedler, to the regional as an individual.
The final few holes were a nail-biter for Lakeland coach Jon Roush and his team, especially after struggling on the difficult par-3 17th hole at Black Squirrel.
“We had a couple of guys hit the water, a couple other guys hit the bunker,” Roush said.
No Laker made par on the hole; there were two triple-bogeys, a double bogey and two bogeys on the Lakeland scorecard.
With the four-stroke margin between the Lakers and sectional champ Memorial, Roush and his team found themselves thinking about what might have been.
“We could have won this thing,” Roush said.
Still, at this time of the season, advancing to the next level is no small feat, and Roush added that he and the Lakers will gladly take their third-place finish and keep their season going.
Spencer Mortola, the Lakers’ No. 1, fired a 77 and said the an extra tournament the Lakers play — the Lafayette Jefferson Invite, in between the NECC tournament and sectionals, helps Lakeland stay sharp.
Mortola said the Lakers will gladly give up a Saturday off for the chance to get in tune for sectional play.
“That’s some pretty tough competition over there,” Mortola said.
On Friday, Mortola said controlling his shots was the key to shooting a low number in the difficult conditions.
Mortola’s worst hole of the day was a double-bogey on the par-5 ninth hole. He still ended up carding a 38 on the front nine, combining that with a 39 on the back nine for his 77.
The Lakers’ No. 2, Cody Richardson, recorded an 81, victimized by the aforementioned triple-bogey on 17.
For the runner-up Raiders, No. 2 Rhett Holoway had the best score of the day, a consistent 40-40-80. No. 1 Logan McBride turned in a 40-42-82, and No. 4 Tom Morrison had a 39-43-82. Will Erekson, the Raiders’ No. 3, turned in a 42-41-83.
Lakeland’s third-place effort was rounded out by No. 3 Jordan Aldrich (39-45-84); No. 4 Isaac Kilgore (44-44-88); and No. 5 Zachary Paxson (49-48-97.
At Black Squirrel Golf Club
1. Elkhart Memorial, 326; 2. Northridge, 327; 3. Lakeland, 330; 4. Elkhart Central, 332; 5. Concord, 332; 6. NorthWood, 343; 7. Fairfield, 346; 8. Goshen, 351; 9. Westview, 374; 10. Elkhart Christian, 380; 11. Prairie Heights, 382; 12. Jimtown, 427; 13. Bethany Christian, 465.
1. Jeffrey Bradford (EC) 75; 2. Zach Hochstedler (FF) 77; 3. Spencer Mortola (LL) 77; 3. Timothy Johnson (CON) 78; Alec Dutkowski (ECA) 78.
Individuals advancing without a team
1. Jeffrey Bradford (EC) 75; 2. Zach Hochstedler (FF) 77; 3. Alec Dutkowski (ECA) 78.
BETHANY CHRISTIAN (465): Johnathan Watkins 54-53-107; Ryan Miller 49-49-98; Zac Zmudzinski 59-55-114; Corey Hostetler 69-79-148; Derek Christophel 69-77-146.
CONCORD (332): Alexander Happer 36-44-80; Ryan Bontrager 41-47-88; Timothy Johnson 38-40-78; Andrew Sandlin 44-42-86; Noah Vollmar 48-47-95.
ELKHART CENTRAL (332): Jeffrey Bradford 38-37-75; Alajandro Genis 42-47-89; Alexander Brosh 42-43-85; Riley Keagle 41-42-83; Brett Morton 44-49-93.
ELKHART CHRISTIAN (380): Alec Dutkowski 43-35-78; Tyler VanArsdale 42-53-95; Austin Buckles 47-60-107; Scott Mishler 47-53-100; Austin Hills 50-63-113.
ELKHART MEMORIAL (326): Noah Strati 41-45-86; Robert Sorg 51-42-95; Frank Iavagnilio 39-40-79; Drew Stutz 40-40-80; Braden Sherwood 40-41-81.
FAIRFIELD (346): Zach Hochstedler 39-38-77; Jordan Davidhizar 44-41-85; Jacob Fry 43-47-90; Andrew Hoover 53-41-94; Tyler Hostetler 43-56-99.
GOSHEN (352): Austin Shaffer 48-43-91; Paul Johnson 46-41-87; Alex Hartsough 41-48-89; Kenneth Shields 48-47-95; Joel Moyer 42-43-85.
JIMTOWN (427): Broc Maurer 48-53-101; Jordan Hutsell 62-54-116; Zachary Roeder 46-55-101; Dakota Funderburk 55-59-114; T.K. Whitman 48-63-111.
LAKELAND (330): Spencer Mortola 38-39-77; Cody Richardson 38-43-81; Jordan Aldrich 39-45-84; Isaac Kilgore 44-44-88; Zachary Paxson 49-48-97.
NORTHRIDGE (327): Logan McBride 40-42-82; Rhell Holoway 40-40-80; Will Erekson 42-41-83; Tom Morrison 39-43-82; Andrew Edlund 45-46-91.
NORTHWOOD (343): Payton Grubbs 41-45-86; Dylan GEssinger 39-43-82; Logan Kauffman 47-41-88; Brayden Glaser 44-44-88; Ryan Thompson 42-45-87.
PRAIRIE HEIGHTS (382): Jessy Morgan 44-44-88; Dakota Lambert 49-52-101; Nick Bennett 52-47-99; Jason Miller 51-56-107; Cole Lontz 43-46-89.
WESTVIEW (374): Denis Weirich 44-44-88; Logan Miller 45-46-91; Dustin Strong 48-44-92; Cody Litwiller 51-52-103; Reed Oesch 55-56-111.