The regional features both a tough course and some very strong competition.
Hickory Stick is a links-style course with open, bent grass fairways. Much of its challenge comes in its sheer length. From the back tees, the course plays 6,832 yards. By comparison, Windy Hill and and Old Hickory are 5,610 (for 18 holes) and 5,805, respectively. Even Martinsville, the course the players competed on most recently, is nearly 600 yards shorter than Hickory Stick. Needless to say, the length will be an issue.
"It'll be a test. It'll be something they haven't seen," said Greencastle coach Donovan Wheeler.
None of Greencastle's golfers had played Hickory Stick before this week. Wheeler said it would be a new experience for them.
One bit of comfort he had, though, was some of his golfers went with the team to play Stonehenge in Warsaw last year. Wheeler said the courses were comparable, so he hoped his players could benefit from the experience.
"Some of these boys went up to Warsaw last year," he said. "It's similar to that, and I hope that will come into play."
North Putnam's Burns, on the other hand, has played Hickory Stick in the past. Coach Keith Bodnarick said playing the course has not been Burns' favorite experience in the past. The coach thinks his player will be up to the challenge, though.
"He's looking forward to playing at Hickory Stick," Bodnarick said. "It's a very tough golf course, but he's been striking the ball well. He's got a very good chance."
Bodnarick added, though, Burns would have some "stiff competition." Besides the challenge of the course, the Putnam County golfers will have to deal with one of the most competitive regionals in the state. Drawing from the Greenfield-Central, Lawrence Central, Martinsville and Southport sectionals, it features some of the toughest teams from the Indianapolis area, not to mention the state.
Team qualifiers, besides the Tiger Cubs, hail from Center Grove, Mount Vernon, Greenwood, Cathedral, Warren Central, North Central, Avon, Plainfield, Lutheran, Roncalli and Perry Meridian.
Besides the team qualifiers, each sectional sends its top three scorers (plus ties) from non-qualifying teams. This adds at least 12 tough golfers, of which Burns is one, to the field.
The Center Grove Regional begins at 8 a.m. Thursday with the individual qualifiers teeing off first. Burns will be in the first group off. The Tiger Cubs will have a later tee time with the other team qualifiers. An exact tee time was unavailable at press time.