Kokomo golf Hansen

STATE BOUND: Kokomo freshman Brandon Hansen watches a putt during the Rock Hollow Invitational on May 18. Hansen will play in the State Finals today and Wednesday at Prairie View G.C. in Carmel.

Tipton junior Griffin Hare, Peru sophomore Kash Bellar and Kokomo freshman Brandon Hansen are part of the 100-player field for the 83rd annual IHSAA Boys State Finals at Prairie View G.C. in Carmel.

The tournament begins today with 18 holes and concludes Wednesday with another 18 holes. There is no cut — all of the participants play both days.

“I’m just treating it like a normal golf tournament,” Hare said. “In the summer and fall, I play in a lot of two- and three-day tournaments so this one just feels like a normal golf tournament, but it really means a lot to play in the State Finals so I’m sure I’ll be nervous on the first tee, but once I hit that first tee shot, I should be good to go and just play golf.”

Hare is part of a three-player group that will begin today’s round at 8:09 a.m. on No. 1. It’s the lead-off group at No. 1. Bellar and Hansen are in later groups — Bellar’s group will begin at 9:48 a.m. on No. 10 with Hansen’s group following at 9:57 a.m. on No. 10.

“I’ve thought about what I need to shoot to give myself a chance to win and I think right around even par will have a chance so 72-72 would be a really good score,” Hare said. “I’d take 72-72 — the golf course is playing really tough right now. I think that would give myself a legit chance to win.”

Bellar also is hoping to contend.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said of playing in the State Finals. “I just hope I can play well and maybe come out with a victory.”

The following are looks at the area trio.

BRANDON HANSEN

Hansen has put together a strong freshman season. He stepped right into the Wildkats’ No. 1 spot and provided steady play highlighted by a seventh-place finish in the North Central Conference tournament at Pebble Brook G.C., a runner-up finish in the Peru Sectional at Rock Hollow G.C. and a fifth-place finish in the Plymouth Regional at Swan Lake G.C.

He’ll cap the season with the State Finals.

“It’s a big accomplishment,” he said. “It feels really good to do it as a freshman.”

Hansen punched his ticket to state with his strong showing in the regional. He fired a 2-over 74 and took the fourth of five individual advancing spots, which are for players from non-advancing teams.

“I played that course earlier this year so I was really familiar with it,” he said. “I feel like I can play that course really well with my swing. It felt good putting a good round in. I didn’t know if I was going to [advance] or not. It felt really good to see that I made it. Just barely got in.”

Hansen is not as familiar with Prairie View.

“I’ve only played it one time,” he said, referring to his practice round on Saturday. “I think it could play easy if I get in the fairways, but it’s pretty difficult if you don’t get it off the tee well.”

Hansen credits a late-season session with instructor Todd Smith for his steady play in the state tournament, which began with a 6-over 78 in the sectional.

“I was kind of struggling about two or three weeks ago, shooting like 43 or something like that in nine-hole matches. I went to Todd and he kind of straightened my swing out,” he said.

“I started hitting the ball a lot straighter and a lot better — way better contact.”

Hansen is looking for steady play at state.

“Pretty much just play my best and soak it all in,” he said. “Just trying to play well, not put too much pressure on myself.”

Hansen is grouped today with Avon junior Tyler Nickol and Bloomington South sophomore Drew Todd.

GRIFFIN HARE

Hare heads into his first State Finals with momentum after his sizzling performance in the Muncie Central Regional at The Players Club in Yorktown. He fired a 5-under 67 and won by three shots.

Like Hansen, Hare doesn’t have great familiarity with the state course.

“I’ve only played it twice and I haven’t played it in a tournament round so it’s going to be kind of weird. I haven’t had that [unfamiliarity with a course] for awhile,” he said. “But I do know the golf course pretty well for only playing it twice. The greens are running really quick right now and it’s pretty tight.”

Asked for a comparison, Hare said it reminded him somewhat of a mix of Rock Hollow and The Players Club with several tight fairways.

“It’s a great venue for the State Finals,” he said.

The Ball State commit is grouped today with Franklin sophomore Damon Dickey and Bedford North Lawrence senior Ethan Stanley. Dickey is a former Tipton student. His dad is former Tipton boys basketball coach Brad Dickey.

“We haven’t played with each other that much since he left, but we’re really happy to finally play with each other again,” Hare said. “I think that will be really cool especially having a big Tipton crowd following me. Everyone is going to know Damon so that’s going to be really cool.”

KASH BELLAR

Bellar anchored Peru’s lineup and provided consistently strong play in leading the Bengal Tigers to Three Rivers Conference and Peru Sectional titles. The sectional title was their first since 2010.

“I’d say I’ve had a decent season,” he said. “I’ve had a couple rounds where I just didn’t have it and I’ve had a couple rounds where I’ve been on. Overall, I feel I’ve been pretty solid and I feel like my game is getting sharper every day. I’m just really excited to play [today].”

In the sectional, Bellar fired a 1-under 71 to repeat as medalist. In the Plymouth Regional, he carded a 1-over 73 to tie for third and advance to state as an individual. As a team, Peru shot 319 — just one shot back of third place. The top three teams advance to state.

“The main goal was to make it [to state] as a team, which unfortunately we didn’t do it. I was just glad I played decent enough to make it to state,” he said.

Bellar is making his first state appearance. He is grouped today with Cathedral senior Luke Mattingly and Brebeuf Jesuit sophomore Drew Wrightson.

He has the benefit of having played Prairie View in the past.

“I like the course,” he said. “It’s definitely a second-shot course. I think I’m a very good ball-striker so I think it sets up well for me.”

His goal is to play his best and let the chips fall where they may.

“I try not to think of a number, I just try to play,” he said. “You never know, one kid can play out of his mind and go low or it could be the golf course is playing really tough and the scores are kind of high. I just want to play well.”

Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune's sports editor. He may be reached at bryan.gaskins@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8567.

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Bryan Gaskins is the Kokomo Tribune's sports editor. He joined the sports department in a full-time capacity in September 1999 and moved into the editor's role in January 2010.