Mark Civanich cut about five strokes off his average from last season to this one. It’s propelled the Valparaiso junior into the state championship, which is Tuesday and Wednesday at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.
“I feel like I’m on a hot streak right now," Civanich said. "I have a lot of momentum going in (to this event). I’ve just been doing fantastic, lately, in the tournaments I’ve been playing in."
The improvement is due to a more mature approach to the game, Civanich said. In the past, he’d do things like go for a par 5 in two when he didn’t have to or take an overly aggressive approach out of the rough.
“I tended to play pretty steady golf before I got into this hot streak and then I’d just make a couple mistakes. Those mistakes would cause me to shoot mid to high 70s,” he said. “I’ve just been able to reduce those mistakes.”
His 18-hole average has fallen from the high 70s to the low to mid 70s. It’s a jump that Vikings coach Wayne Lichtenberger thinks is unusual.
“He’s probably had above average growth in the sport,” Lichtenberger said. “I would’ve predicted this year a little bit of growth, probably 75 to 77 on an average. He’s kind of jumped two levels to even par and below par this year.”
Civanich shot a 74 in last week’s Lake Central Regional at Sandy Pines in DeMotte to advance to the state tournament.
Additional practice also helped Civanich reach state. He said he has spent more time working on golf in the offseason, using simulators over the winter.
“It was nothing swing-wise, just consistently hitting the golf ball,” he said. “I was just nonstop hitting balls, keeping a consistent flow going. It was just hitting every day, making sure there were no issues. That’s what really got me to the next level.”
Lichtenberger said he teaches players that the driver should be 20 percent of the game, with the short game about 40 or 50 percent and the rest the long irons.
“The last couple weeks, he’s been really good with his short game and putting. That’s really where his scores have come from. He’s maybe missed one or two greens,” Lichtenberger said. “He’s put that time in on the short range and the putting green without a doubt.”
Neither Civanich nor Lichtenberger were very familiar with Prairie View before Monday’s practice round. But neither felt like they had any reason to fear the course.
The realistic goal, both player and coach said, is a top-10 finish. Civanich admits he dreams of the college interest that could follow a state championship, though.
“I’m just really happy I made it,” Civanich said. "I’m going to go out there and have fun and just show the state of Indiana what I’ve got."
Michigan City’s Nick Gushrowski will also play at Prairie View as an individual for the second consecutive year. He tied for 58th at state last year.
In addition, the Crown Point team will represent the Region at state for the first time since 2000.
Central Indiana got a few inches of rain over the weekend. That could benefit Crown Point, Bulldogs coach Ryan Bishop said.
"The course is really wet and it's going to play long," Bishop said. "I think we'll be OK because we're a team that really doesn't rely on length. We rely on our short game. I think kids are going to have to scramble from 20, 30 yards out on some of these par 4s. … So, it's going to really incorporate the short game."
Bishop said Prairie View didn't really play that way in the past.
Crown Point is headed to state after posting a 320 team score at the Lake Central Regional. That was good enough for second behind Carmel's 291.
"We don't really worry about what's gone on before. To these kids, that stuff really (doesn't) matter. We just look at this as an opportunity to compete," Bishop said. "We've had more talented teams that did not make the state tournament. Every group of kids is a different set."
The aim for the Bulldogs is a top-10 finish and a team score of around 320 or 325, depending on the weather, according to Bishop. Weather.com is calling for mid 70s temperatures both days. Mostly sunny skies are forecast for Tuesday and cloudy skies are forecast for Wednesday.
"There's some pretty good schools out here and it's not really a surprise that one of them, we're playing their home course," Bishop said. "If the Greyhounds have been the best in the state all year and then they get to play the championship on their home course, we know the battle we're fighting. We have our own standards."
At the Lake Central Sectional, the Bulldogs had three of the top five golfers. Crown Point's Mikey Pinchok won medalist honors after defeating teammate Connor Proudman and Lowell's Jordan Harris in a playoff. All three posted a 75.
Crown Point's Isaac Embry was one stroke back.
The hero at the regional was Finn Kiger: He led the Bulldogs with a 75. Proudman (79) also carded a sub-80 round.