BOURBON — Each year, Triton golfers get fired up for the spring. Sure, there’s the whole golf season thing, but the real excitement begins before the Trojans ever officially tee off, with the boys program’s annual trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“As a teacher it’s about building relationships with the kids. This is something that the kids look forward to probably more than the season half the time,” said head coach Jack Carpenter. “It’s funny because I’ll have ex-players text me… ‘Hey Coach, I haven’t seen pictures of Myrtle Beach. Are you guys there?’ So we will send pictures of stuff from while we were there. Even the older kids remember it. I have kids from last year or the year before calling me, saying ‘Hey, if you need extra golfers to go, I’m available.’ It’s become kind of a tradition with us.”
The tradition started 14 years ago, when Carpenter’s nephew and one of Triton’s all-time bests, T.J. Carpenter, was still with the Trojans. It’s since become a yearly bonding experience.
Players, parents, coaches and spouses all join in the fun, and this year’s group included 24 golfers — all 10 of the Trojans’ high school golfers as well as two junior high players, coaches and players’ parents — and 32 total participants. The group stays in a house in the southern portion of the Grand Strand and plays a total of six courses in the Myrtle Beach area, which has been called the “Golf Capital of the World” with more than 130 courses winding throughout the region. This year’s trip included rounds at renowned Calidonia, Grande Dunes, Heritage and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pawleys Plantation Golf Club, as well as Burning Ridge and Willbrook.
“Kind of a good way to jump start our season and just have some fun,” said Carpenter.
“We try to play different courses every year. There are 132 golf courses in Myrtle Beach from what they call the North Strand to the South Strand, and it’s about an hour car drive from the north to the south. Since we stay in the south we try to stay in those areas.”
And the Trojans play for a little hardware while they’re at it, with the coveted Trojan Cup on the line.
Carpenter names three captains who divide the group up into three teams of eight at the start, and each morning there’s a draw to see what the pairings are and what the format for the day is. There’s a possibility of four points up for grabs each round up until the final day, when teams can earn themselves as many as eight points. At the end of each round, Carpenter and assistant coach Blake Schori total up the points — a process that can be an involved one given the number of creative formats that may be selected on a given day and the way the points are divvied up — while the kids relax, swim, play pool and generally just have a good time. Prizes are given out throughout the trip for each Par 3, as well as Longest Drive and other competitions, and at the end of the trip, the team with the most total points gets the Trojan Cup.
This year’s outing was Happy Gilmore-themed, and the three teams were named for Gilmore, mentor Chubbs Peterson (members of the team wore t-shirts that read “Rest in peace” and bore the image of an alligator with Cubbs’ arm in its mouth) and rival Shooter McGavin. Team Gilmore won this year’s prize, running away with it on the final day of competition.
“It’s fun hearing the captains go at each other when they pick who is playing who each day,” said Carpenter with a laugh. “Coach Schori and I do all this figuring afterwards so it takes some time for us to do it but very, very worthwhile. The kids love it, and then every night we have a magnetic board that we put the names up on.
“They don’t know who wins until the evening when we hand out the awards, so to speak. We have like proxy prizes for every Par 3. We have long drives, just a lot of neat stuff that we do that keeps them interested and into the game.”
With the Trojans now back from their trip to Myrtle Beach, they’re ready to get down to business. The team was originally scheduled to open the season with the Triton Golf Invitational Saturday, but with the forecast calling for severely cold weather, the invite has been cancelled and next on the Trojans’ slate is a three-way meet with Bremen and Hoosier North Athletic Conference foe LaVille next Wednesday.
Back to lead the team in 2018 are returning varsity players Isaac Wall, a senior, and Beau Hepler, a junior. Hepler’s classmate Chase Butler is also back after splitting time between the JV and varsity lineups last spring, but the remaining spots in the Triton top five are likely up for grabs.
“Really besides Beau and Isaac, we really have very little varsity experience,” said Carpenter. “Those two guys have played varsity the last couple years. Chase got in the action a couple matches last year so I’m expecting some big things out of him. He’s kind of a small kid, but he has a very, very good short game.”
Competing for the other top spots will be senior Warsaw transfer Ross Johnson, who has some limited varsity experience under his belt but is coming off a strong Spring Break, Brock Watkins, who has shown perhaps the most improvement of any Trojan golfer through the spring, fellow juniors Brendan Wareham, Carter Kuntz and Kaden Atkins, as well as freshmen Keegan Westafer and John Gardner, who makes up for his lack of experience with a competitive streak.
“I like him because he is one heck of a competitor, and he shows it on the golf course,” said Carpenter of Gardner. “I think for him it’s just going to be a learning experience because he’s only got one year under his belt. Last year was his first junior high year he played, and he’s just kind of gotten the bug.”