Western's boys golf team is making its seventh consecutive regional appearance today, but the Panthers are in the same boat as regional newcomers when it comes to course familiarity.
The Panthers are playing in the Plymouth Regional at Swan Lake Golf Club, which is making its debut as a regional host. Western previously played in the Warsaw Regional at Stonehenge G.C.
Western coach Steve Hoppes is thrilled with the change.
"It's a fantastic choice," he said after the Panthers' practice round Wednesday. "It's an excellent golf course with great facilities. I'm impressed. I think [the regional] should stay there.
"I think it's a nice test, but a fair golf course for the boys," he added.
Western advanced to the regional from the Peru Sectional at Rock Hollow. Peru (316), Western (320) and Lewis Cass (334) advanced as the top three teams in the sectional.
Eighteen teams from six different sectionals feed into the regional. They are playing for three spots in the State Finals. The top five individuals from non-advancing teams also will move on.
No. 7-ranked Penn, No. 17 Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger and No. 20 Fort Wayne Canterbury headline the Swan Lake field while Carroll (Fort Wayne) and Culver Academy had the best sectional scores of the regional participants. Carroll and CA each posted a 300 in winning its respective sectional. Penn and Dwenger won sectionals with scores of 302 and 303, respectively.
Peru, which spent time in the top 20 during the season, hopes to challenge for one of the state spots. The Bengal Tigers are led by sophomore Kash Bellar, who fired a 1-under 71 in repeating as sectional medalist. Junior Corbin Robison backed him with a 79 and senior T. Fred Eddy had a career-best 81.
"We have goals that aren't finished yet for this season," Peru coach Clint Mathews said after the Tigers' sectional win Monday. "We're looking to go out and put something up low [today]."
Western is taking a more relaxed approach.
"The regional is so tough, so many good teams coming in there," Hoppes said. "The sectional was pressure. [Today] will be relaxed."
The Panthers pushed the favored Bengal Tigers in the sectional. The Panthers' 320 was their season-best score. Sophomore Kyle Sanders shot a 79, junior Trevor White shot a career-best 79, senior Levi Purtee had an 80 and junior Spencer Chambers had a season-best 82.
Cass is making its first regional appearance since 2012. The Kings were led in the sectional by Ben Carpenter (82), Mason Hahn (83) and Conrad Emmons (83).
Kokomo freshman Brandon Hansen, Eastern senior Mason France and Maconaquah freshman Mason Taylor advanced to the regional as individuals. Hansen was the individual runner-up at Peru with a 78. France and Taylor shot 84s.
Tipton enters the Muncie Central Regional on a high after placing third in Monday's Noblesville Sectional with a sizzling 309. Prior to the sectional, the Blue Devils talked about how to avoid trouble and minimize their scores. That's the same approach they'll take this morning The Players Club.
"I'm very excited we're having an opportunity to go," Tipton coach Kenny Day said. "I still think we can make an impact. We played a practice round [Tuesday] and we played there last week in a dual match with Muncie Central, and again we just kind of did a little scouting report on the way home — things that we need to do, hit the ball out to the left on several fairways, stay out of trouble.
"Players Club doesn't have the heather like what we had at Purgatory so that's going to be an advantage. But there's a lot of sand traps and waters in strategic places and you're going to have to play around them. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Noah Wolfe led the Blue Devils with a 71 in the sectional, followed by Griffin Hare's 75 and Mylan Swan's 79.
"They're starting to catch on and I think they're starting to believe in themselves a little bit," Day said.