The 2014 prep golf season is winding down, leaving just a few matches for teams to straighten out any hooks or slices before the IHSAA State Tournament.
Though some teams will still have a few regular season contests before sectionals, the postseason will begin for members of the Northern Lakes Conference this Saturday.
The annual NLC Golf Championships will be held this weekend at Christiana Creek Country Club in Elkhart. In an unusual turn of events, the field for this year’s championships appears to be much more open than in seasons past.
Northridge wrapped up its 2014 NLC campaign at 7-0, two wins ahead of second place Warsaw (5-2). The Raiders will be the favorite coming into Saturday’s conference tournament, but the Raiders are far from guaranteed champions.
Northridge slipped by Plymouth and Warsaw by just four strokes each and left the door open against NorthWood and Wawasee, a door that neither team could take advantage of at the time but still puts both squads within striking distance of the NLC’s top team.
The Raiders have perhaps the most consistent team in the conference, which will give them a nice boost heading on to perhaps the most inconsistent course, at least according to Wawasee’s head coach Steve Coverstone.
“Christiana Creek is a course that is so difficult to figure out,” said Coverstone. “When you go there you think that it will be an easy play, but by the time you are done you’re just beat and wore out. It’s an unsuspecting course, it can trick you and it will really challenge our guys.”
Coverstone said his team will make the trip up to Elkhart on Friday night to get a feel for the course before the big event on Saturday morning.
Just down the road in Kosciusko County is Ben Barkey and his Warsaw Tiger team. The Tigers have had more of an up and down year than what the program has been accustomed to in years past, but Barkey knows his team has the ability to still come out on top on Saturday.
“Our biggest issue right now is course management,” Barkey stated. “I’ve talked about it all year and our guys are still trying to figure it out. Christiana Creek can be a tough course, but it’s not a course that we should shoot poorly on.
“We should be shooting better all around, again it’s about course management. I’ve been disappointed by some of the score we’ve had this year, we have to be focused on getting more pars. We turn in too many large numbers, we can’t do that Saturday.”
Heading into Saturday’s contest, Goshen (0-7 in NLC play) is the only team that can probably be counted out of the race for first place. While it is unlikely that Elkhart Memorial or Concord (both 2-5 in NLC contests) would make a run, both are capable. Memorial, after all, does have the advantage of playing on its home course.
Wawasee, Plymouth and NorthWood are all stuck in the middle at 4-3, but all three teams have flashed greatness at one point or another this season. At the end of the day, Northridge has been able to make it our of the NLC schedule unscathed due to its depth. The Raiders have five players, led by Will Erekson, that consistently shoot around 40. No other team has been able to match that in NLC play, yet.
Wawasee has had solid outings from Tristen Atwood and Jeffrey Moore, but are waiting for more consistency from the back end of its lineup. Mason Germonprez and Cal Heinisch have shown the ability, but will have to come through on Saturday.
Warsaw finds itself in a similar boat. Top golfers Jonny Hollar and Will Petro have had several stellar outings so far, but have yet to consistently shoot in the 30s. Hollar is a player that usually plays well on the big stage, but the Tigers will need help in the No. 3 through No. 5 spots to help him and Petro knock off the Raiders on Saturday.
With seven teams potentially having a shot on Saturday, the 2014 NLC Golf Championship is shaping up to be a memorable one. First tee is set for 8 a.m. Saturday morning.