FARMLAND – As the weather worsened Monday afternoon at the Monroe Central Sectional, so did Keegan Bronnenberg’s game – but not nearly enough to prevent him from repeating as sectional champion.
One year after losing in a playoff for the individual crown, the Central junior got off to a roaring start at Hickory Hills Golf Club and cruised from there, shooting a 1-over 71 to prevail over his playing partners – Yorktown’s Blake Vise (75) and Wapahani’s Connor Hensley (76).
Recognizing the steady rain throughout most of the latter part of the day would hurt his score a little, Bronnenberg made sure that didn’t matter in going out with a 33 on the front and finishing with the same score he shot last year.
“It definitely leaves some freedom on the back nine. You feel a little more comfortable,” he said. “I knew with the weather, the number was going to be higher. It’s hard to shoot low in that weather. But with the low score on the front, that helped.”
After storms hit East Central Indiana on Sunday, Bronnenberg recognized he had to be aggressive with his irons and around the green. Normally a faster track, the precipitation had the effect of spraying a dusty infield down with a hose before a baseball game.
He came out on fire, with birdies on three of his first four holes, building a sizable lead before the rain.
“It helped a lot, made the greens a little more receptive,” Bronnenberg said of the conditions. “Because of the rain, you could definitely attack some pins today instead of hitting the front of the green and hoping for a good bounce.”
Vise’s steady round led Yorktown (306) to the team crown. He carded a 37 on the front and closed with a 38 to help the Tigers easily outdistance second-place Delta (333 and Central (334).
“Blake just hits the ball straight every time,” said Hensley, one of his playing partners. “There’s no missing with Blake.”
After nine holes, Yorktown only led Central by two shots and Delta by three. But the Tigers showed their resolve on the back nine, led by senior Caleb Morey.
Morey shot a 44 on the front but rebounded to card a 33 on the back to shoot 77 along with Beau Mansker and Eric Short.
“As a senior, this is their time to step up,” Yorktown coach Nathan McClung said. “Just to grind, really, and survive the front, then turn in 33, that’s where you make your money there. That was big.
“… I felt like most of the guys shot the lowest that they could have shot with the way the course was playing and the way they were hitting the ball. Grinding out the lowest number you can is sometimes the battle. You’re not always going to play great.”
In addition to those from Yorktown, Delta (which was led by Blake Shanayda’s 81 and Dawson Sloan’s 83) and Central (Boyd McCoy shot 82), Hensley, Daleville’s Kaleb Rench (81) and Wapahani’s Bryant Woodard (82) also qualified for regionals.
The top three overall finishers were all in the final group, with Vise and Hensley fighting to catch Bronnenberg.
“Obviously it puts a little pressure on you, but I play better when I play with good people,” Hensley said. “It kind of puts some good pressure on you.”
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP.