CARMEL, Ind. – Dave Scudder had unwanted time to kill.
The Bishop Dwenger coach relaxed in a white van with blue-and-gold trim near the Prairie View Golf Course clubhouse Tuesday afternoon. He had no choice. Neither did his players, who also were in the van doing what guys do while waiting out a pair of weather delays that totaled nearly three hours.
It wasn't rain as much as lightning that halted play, but the result was the same and the message was clear — chill out, but don't lose focus. Sustain the edge that keeps returning the Saints to the brink of state title contention.
“They're relaxing,” Scudder said. “It's going to be a long day. They haven't been finishing real well coming in. Hopefully they can regroup and forget about that other stuff.”
Regrouping didn't happen and forgetting couldn't slow the fade. The Saints finished Tuesday's opening round in 12th place with a 33-over par score of 321.They were led by junior Luke Miller, who was tied for 34th with a 5-over 77.
Homestead fared slightly better with a 315 score, good for 10th place. The Spartans were led by Austin Render's 76, which had him in a tie for 26th.
Carroll was last in the 15-team field with a 336 score. It was led by Nick Ramsey's 81.
Canterbury's Michael Brothers also shot a 77 as a state-qualifying individual.
The final 18 holes are set for Wednesday.
Early on seventh-ranked Dwenger was in strong title contention with a third-place position. But as the day went on, the scores got higher as the temperatures got cooler and the wind stronger. The problem was not so much with the way the Saints were hitting the ball as the way they putted it.
“I think that's local knowledge,” Scudder said. “If we played this course a little more than twice a year, we could play it better. That won't change. We don't live around here. There's nothing you can do about it.”
Still, three straight trips to the Prairie View state tourney location keeps Dwenger pushing for a championship-winning break-through.
“Hopefully, it will pay off some day,” Scudder said.
Hope is strong given the Saints, who will return four of their top five players next season, have built a Fort Wayne golfing dynasty.
Dwenger has consecutive fourth-place state tourney finishes. It has six straight state appearances, tying Westfield for the longest active streak while dominating the SAC like no team in history.
The record of 21 straight state appearances was set by Indianapolis Shortridge from the 1930s to the 1950s.
What is the secret for the Saints' consistent success?
“We have a pretty good feeder program,” Scudder said, “but it's not that organized. It seems like a lot of the same name kids are coming through at different times. I think the fact kids know if you want to be a golfer, you have a chance to perform at Dwenger.”
Scudder runs Fort Wayne's junior golf program, so he sees early what young talent is coming his way.
“I get to know the kids. They get to know me.”
Knowing is one thing, teaching is another. For this Scudder knows what he doesn't know. In other words, most of his players already work with pros, so he stays out of the way.
“Most of these guys have had a lot more instruction than I've had, so I don't try to change their swings at all. I do a little course management.”
Beyond that, Scudder said, “I think I make it fun for them. I don't put a lot of pressure on them. It's not cut-throat golf. It's just a game. They enjoy that part of it.
“They put enough pressure on themselves. They don't need it from me.
“Some coaches at other schools have thought they had better golfers, but they don't get as far as we do, and they don't understand why. I say, 'I let the players have fun. You guys are on them all the time — don't do this, don't do that. Change this.' I don't change anything.”
Fun doesn't come by sacrificing intensity. The ultimate goal remains winning.
“I keep it low key, but I make sure they don't (mess) around,” Scudder said. “Carroll beat us in a dual. We had won everything up to that point.
“Carroll played well, but we played stupid. We had a little talk about doing the right things, use your heads, don't be a dummy. If you don't want to play hard, let me know and I'll take it easy, too, and we'll just have fun. Then things straightened out.”
Dwenger arrived at Prairie View as an underdog to two-time defending champ Westfield, top-ranked Center Grove and second-ranked Carmel, which is why Scudder offered perspective as the Saints prepared to tee off Tuesday.
“(The players) asked me, 'What do you expect?' I said, I would be elated if we got in the top 5. I don't expect anything. I told them, let's be realistic. Most of you haven't played here before. There are some very good teams here.”
That included Homestead and Carroll. Homestead has four straight state appearances. Carroll is at state for the first time in 29 years.
Carmel led after 18 holes with a score of 286, six strokes better than Center Grove's 292. Westfield was next at 293.
Westfield's Noah Shanteau was the individual leader at 3-under 69.
Carmel, a perennial athletic powerhouse, is vying for the school's eighth state championship of the school year, which would be a state record. They share the record of seven they set during the 2010-11 season.
STATE GOLF MEET
PRAIRIE VIEW GOLF COURSE
TEAMS: Carmel 286, Center Grove 292, Westfield 293.
HOMESTEAD 315: Austin Render 76, Matthew Hope 80, Garrett Willis 78, Cameron Cook 91, Ellis Yoder 81
BISHOP DWENGER 321: Luke Miller 77, Jonathan Filler 79, Ariel DeLuna 82, Ryan Logan 83, Tyler Fink 84
CARROLL 336: Caydon Yourdon 86, Xavier Walden 82, Nick Ramsey 81, Cam Boyce 87, Caleb Waugh 92.
INDIVIDUALS: Michael Brothers (Canterbury) 77
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