PERU — A season ago, Western’s boys golf team shot a 340 in the Peru Sectional to seemingly put itself in position to raise the postseason hardware for the first time in program history, only to see newcomer Wabash swoop in and card a 330 to claim top honors.
All five Panthers returned from that experience ready to make amends, and Monday at Rock Hollow G.C., a pair of seniors made sure there would be no disappointment this time around.
Tyler White paced the field with a one-over par 73, and classmate Austin Smith followed closely behind with a 74 to help Western card a 315, best runner-up Kokomo (326) by 11 strokes, and add one of the few missing pieces to the athletic department’s trophy case.
”They were angered and disappointed by last year,” Western coach Steve Hoppes said. “They just said, ‘You know, next year we should win this thing.’ When we came in here [Monday] on the bus, there wasn’t anything said. There was no laughing. They had their game faces on, and they knew they had to because Kokomo and Peru are both good squads.”
Hoppes has been the head man for Western’s boys golf program 31 of the last 34 years dating back to 1980. His players were elated to deliver the sectional title for the school, but also the coach who’s devoted nearly his entire career to the program.
”I think he deserves it. He’s been coaching for a long time,” Smith said of Hoppes. “He really just wants to see us succeed and win. We put in our time and work, and we showed it [Monday].”
White played steady golf to claim the top spot of the leaderboard. He made it through the round without having to card anything higher than a five, and helped offset four bogeys with a pair of birdies.