By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
When Devin Gabbard stepped onto the tee box on the first hole at last year’s KHSAA State Golf Tournament, he was more than a little jittery.
“I was just terrified both days,” the Madison Central senior said. “That first tee shot is nerve-racking. Unfortunately, both days I missed long and left in the trees.”
Most of his teammates felt the same way.
With the exception of senior Kyle Congleton, who had qualified for the state meet as an individual, none of the Indians had ever competed at that level.
“It was our first time there,” Central’s Dylan Kelley said. “That course (at Bowling Green Country Club) is one of the toughest one in the state.”
Despite some nerves, the Indians still put together two solid rounds and finished tied for sixth place.
This year, they are back.
And they have much bigger goals this time around.
“We expect a little more,” Kelley said. “We know what its like. I think he have higher expectations.”
Central will begin play at the 2012 KHSAA State Golf Tournament Friday in Bowling Green. The two-day tournament will conclude on Saturday.
“I hope that experience will go a long way for us this year,” Central coach Tim Stephens said. “Those four guys, they have the experience and they know what to expect. They know that if you don’t have the concentration and you get distracted by all the elements around you that you can loose it real quick. I think they are ready this year to put on a better show.”
Central defeated Lexington Catholic by five strokes last week to take the title at the Region 9 Tournament at Kearny Hill Golf Links in Lexington. The Indians had four players finish in the top 13, led by senior Devin Gabbard (73, +1), as they won a second-straight regional title.
That earned them another trip to the state tournament.
Four of the five members of this year’s team made the trip Bowling Green last season and they will certainly be much more comfortable this time.
“I think this is their year,” Stephens said. “They know the course. They’ve played it several times this year.”
At last year’s state meet, Kelley and Carter Skipworth, a freshman, both shot +18, 162 and finished tied for 42nd place. John Cornelison, a senior, shot a +20 and tied for 53rd and Gabbard shot a +23 and tied for 65th.
Central shot a 313 in the first round and was within striking distance of the leaders. The Indians shot a 329 on the second day and slipped into a tie with Ashland Blazer for sixth.
Junior Grant Willoughby is the only member of this year’s team that didn’t play in last year’s state tournament. But, the Indians have played at Bowling Green Country Club once this season and have competed in numerous tournaments around the state against the top teams, including West Jessamine and St. Xavier.
“It’s just another tournament for us, really,” Gabbard said.
The teams will get a chance to play practice rounds on the course today, then tee times will start at 7 a.m. Friday.