WARSAW – Ben Barkey feels very comfortable heading into the golf regional Thursday.
A big reason for that feeling for the Warsaw boys golf coach is the comfort zone he knows his team will have playing on its home course.
Barkey’s Warsaw team is set to host the 18-team regional round of the state tournament at the Stonehenge Golf Club in Winona Lake starting at 8 a.m. Thursday.
At stake for the Tigers, who are the defending regional champions, and the rest of the field is a berth in the State Finals set for June 11-12 at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. The top three teams in the regional, along with the top five individuals not on an advancing team, earn a spot in the State Finals.
Barkey, who guided his No. 10 team to a sectional title on their home layout at Stonehenge last Friday, says being at home is a big plus for his talented team.
“Our guys are very comfortable there and we feel very fortunate to be hosting the regional,” said Barkey. “It’s a calming idea for us. All of our guys have played well at Stonehenge in the past and all of them are capable of doing that on Thursday.”
Warsaw edged Triton 314-315 to claim the sectional title thanks to its depth and consistency. The Tigers were led by Jon Schram. The senior standout, who will play at Ball State, shot a 76. Sophomore Jonny Hollar and senior Evan Cultice each fired a 79 and junior Will Petro 80 for the champions. Senior Tim Ahlersmeyer shot 84 in the sectional for Warsaw.
Triton seniors Ryan Rapp and Quentyn Carpenter were outstanding last week at Stonehenge as Rapp earned medalist honors with a three-under par round of 68. Carpenter, who is also Ball State bound, shot 72. The key for the Trojans this week will be the play of the rest of its lineup of Tanner Shepherd, Lucas Shafer and Greg Music. Shafer, the No. 4 man for Triton, shot 87 in the sectional, while No. 3 man Shepherd came in at 88 and Music at 95.
“We have a nice, calm confidence,” said Barkey of his experienced team which has three returnees from last year’s squad that tied for sixth place at State. “We just have to focus on one shot at a time and take care of business.
“Our depth is a key for us for sure. There are no question marks for me. All of our guys are ready. It’s pretty simple in that we need to get off to a good start this week.”
The Tigers shot 308 a year ago to win the Homestead Regional played out at Orchard Ridge in Fort Wayne. That was the second title in the last three years and seventh overall.
The field at Stonehenge features five ranked teams in the hosts, along with No. 9 Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, No. 13 NorthWood, No. 18 Fort Wayne Carroll and No. 20 Mishawaka Marian.
Dwenger won the Fort Wayne Canterbury Sectional title with a team score of 310. NorthWood, which shared the NLC championship with Warsaw, shot 299 to win the Fairfield Sectional crown. Carroll won the East Noble Sectional title with a 311, while Marian was runner-up to Penn (308) in the South Bend Riley Sectional.
Barkey does not concern himself with past scores or who will be in the field on Thursday.
“It’s hard to compare anything because the sectionals were played on different courses,” Barkey stated. “There are no surprises here. I could have told you three months ago what teams would be in the regional.
“The thing is that Stonehenge is unlike any other course a lot of these teams have played this season. It’s a home course edge for us and I think more so than anything all of our guys feel comfortable there and that’s a big deal.”
Wawasee freshman Jeffrey Moore will be one of the 18 golfers playing as individuals Thursday. Moore shot a round of 78 to advance out of the Fairfield Sectional.
NorthWood claimed just the second sectional title in program history by a huge 19-shot margin over Northridge at the Black Squirrel course in Goshen. Will Erekson earned sectional medalist honors for the Panthers with a 71. Payton Grubbs shot a 73, Dylan Gessinger 74 and Logan Kauffman 75. NorthWood defeated Warsaw 151-161 in a nine-hole NLC match in May at McCormick Creek in Nappanee and has also outshot the Tigers three times in invitationals this spring.
The field at the regional also includes Columbia City, East Noble, Leo, Northridge, Fairfield, Heritage, Homestead, Wabash, Western, Peru and Elkhart Memorial.
Warsaw won the regional title a year ago with its impressive 308. Dwenger was second with a 322 and Northridge was third with a 323. Triton shot 331 to finish in ninth place.