DEMOTTE — Valparaiso junior Andrew Karr wishes scorecards could talk Saturday.
Because if they could, his 80 in the Lake Central Invitational at Sandy Pines would tell a much different story than it does on paper.
Karr’s 8-over par round led the Vikings (335) to a fourth-place finish behind Region invaders Zionsville (327), Penn (327) and Carmel (331) in what was a star-studded field. Cold and windy conditions left local players and coaches only half-jokingly refer to the morning as “typical golf weather” for this time of the year in the area.
“You sort of have to throw it out and laugh it off a bit,” Karr said. “The only thing I don’t like about an 80 is sending it to colleges who are going to be like, ‘What was that?’”
Karr — a standout receiving plenty of college interest from the likes of Seton Hall and Northern Iowa — finished highest among local players in fifth, five shots off of medalist Nick Katsis of Carmel and one shot better than teammate Michael Smith.
Mark Civanich posted an 86 and Hayden Dickerson finished with an 88 to round out Valparaiso's scoring.
“I know Andrew wasn’t too happy with his score today but when you look at the conditions and the elements and everything he played through you see he played very well,” Valparaiso head coach Wayne Lichtenberger said. “We’ll take what we got and learn from this because it was a great test.”
The course was set up to play from the tips at just over 6,700 yards but the yardages mostly got thrown out the window in the wind, Karr said. Reachable par 5s like the 533-yard No. 7 became three-shot holes with long irons for even the best players into the wind.
The wind was so strong that on the 205-yard 17th Karr said he needed three-wood to get hole high. Plenty of other players were left pulling driver on the par-3.
Fortunately, for Karr, his round was highlighted by the likes of a 50-foot birdie putt on the par 3 No. 8 and saving par from 220-yards out on the par 5 No. 2 after being forced to punch out of the church pew bunkers down the left side of the fairway.
Karr attacked the pin after the punch-out thinking he needed to do something crazy to score. It was shots like that that helped him salvage a round on an otherwise troublesome day.
“It was maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” Karr said, “but I saved par.”
Sandy Pines familiarity may help teams in regionals
Saturday’s field at Sandy Pines was particularly strong, at least in part, because many of the competing teams hope to be back to play it during regionals.
With a new driving range in hand, Sandy Pines takes over as a host site this year in place of Battleground Golf Course in Lafayette, which hosted the local regional since 2013.
“I think it’s going to be very good for the teams in our area,” Crown Point head coach Ryan Bishop said. “I think these kids are creatures of habit, and mentally they’re maybe a little fragile. Knowing the course and being able to sleep in your own bed without going down the day before to practice is going to help all of us.”
Whether or not the course change will do Northwest Indiana boys golf teams any favors remains to be seen but the consensus among coaches and players is that it can’t hurt given the recent string of near misses.
Chesterton finished fourth at Battleground in 2018 but was 12 shots behind the third and final qualifying spot. Crown Point was a regular threat to crack the top three during recent seasons but couldn’t ever string together four strong enough scores to get out.
Valparaiso’s 2013 squad was the lone Region team to make it through Battleground and down to state since the number of regional sites switched from seven to five before the 2012-13 season.
“I feel like this is going to be a much fairer test of golf,” Lichtenberger said. “It’s a challenging and beautiful course, first and foremost, but now finally we can sleep in our own beds.”
Crown Point’s Embry right at home at No. 5
Freshman Isaac Embry plays No. 5 in the Crown Point lineup but doesn’t play like the fifth-best player.
Saturday’s team-best 82 is further proof.
Like other Bulldog freshman standouts before him, Embry has made a home at the back of the lineup but routinely outplays the position. The Bulldogs don’t plan on changing what works.
“He knows his role and stays within his game,” Bishop said. “The mental aspect of what he can do is what I’m most proud of. I had seniors and juniors making nines today. Not him.”
Embry meticulously clawed to a 10-over day mostly keeping the driver in the bag and scrambling when needed. Apart from a triple-bogey on the sixth hole he avoided danger and took what he could get.
The highlight shot of his day was a six-iron to six feet on the 189-yard par 3 third that injected a rare moment of excitement on what was otherwise a mentally taxing day.
“I felt like today was all about mentally not making one bad shot worse than it needed to be,” Embry said. “To shoot what I did today in the conditions? I’ll take that.”