PH defeats Frankton in nine-hole county tournament tune-up

May 1—PENDLETON — Golf teams like to be playing their best as a championship approaches, having their top players putting up low numbers and the whole roster in a pretty good grove.

That certainly appears to be the case now for a pair of teams that figure to be in the running for Saturday's Madison County boys golf championship in Elwood.

Frankton senior Liam Baker earned medalist honors with a 1-under par 35, but Pendleton Heights showed off its team depth with five players in the 30s — including its Nos. 3 and 4 players at even-par — as the Arabians picked up a 148-161 victory in Wednesday's county tune-up at Fall Creek Golf Club.

The Arabians are favored to win the tournament for the third straight time under coach Hunter Cook, but the Eagles and Lapel are expected to contend.

Cook knows he has an advantage when 2023 regional qualifier Ryan Davis and Vance Jarvis lead the way with matching rounds of 36 farther down the Arabians' lineup.

"It's definitely nice to have the headache of having so many good players that I switch out week in and week out," Cook said. "We're trying to find that solid five (players) right now."

The depth also shows when Cook's top player — senior and 2022 county medalist Sam Denny — was third on the team with a 1-over 37 and last year's medalist — sophomore Hayden Fox — shoots a 42 that does not count. Brady Gray and Colin Weir each came in with 39 — with one being discarded — to complete the Arabians' scorecard.

Denny's round started rough with a double-bogey and bogey on the first two holes. But birdies on the fifth and seventh holes as well as a brilliant sand save on the ninth helped him finish strong.

"We've got a couple things to clean up with (Denny), but then he's very capable of going 3 or 4 under," Cook said. "We could definitely have lost him after those first two holes, but I tell you what, that kid grinds, and he's going to try to get back to par."

Even though Fox had an off day in this match, he is one of a number of players who should be in the hunt for individual champion Saturday.

Baker's round was steady throughout.

After scrambling to save par on the first two holes, a three-putt par on the par-5 third was followed by a bogey on the fourth hole. But he bounced back from the bogey to drain a short birdie putt on the fifth to get back to even.

"He hit a lot of good shots today, and the ones he didn't hit well, he was able to scramble and recover quickly," Frankton coach Jeff Bates said. "He has been playing some really good golf this season."

His best play of the day came on the final two holes.

On the par-4 eighth hole, Baker nearly holed out his approach shot for an eagle but settled for a tap-in from mere inches away for his second birdie to get to 1-under. On the par-3 ninth, his tee shot found the rough to the left of the green, and his chip onto the green left him about six feet to save par.

He did not realize he needed that par to finish in red numbers for the day until he set up for the chip shot.

"I didn't know until I got to my chip shot and I started adding stuff up," he said. "I said, 'OK, I need to buckle down and get up and down.' It's good not knowing where you're at so you're not putting extra pressure on yourself."

But make it he did, saving par and a 1-under day as he heads into the county tournament, which figures to be highly competitive.

"I've always thought Pendleton had a great golf program, and they're going to be good no matter what," Baker said. "It is good for some confidence for us going into county."

"I like where we're at, the direction we're going, and it's exciting moving forward" Bates said.

Behind Baker, Jace Scott and Christian Knauer each shot a 41, and Jett Hiatt added a 44 to round out the Eagles' scoring.

A 47 from Kaden Key and a 49 by Ryder Shepherd did not count in the final team score.

Frankton will host Oak Hill on Thursday at Meadowbrook before the Eagles, Arabians and the rest of the county tees up the tournament Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Elwood Golf Links.

"Saturday, we're looking forward to that and hopefully bringing that back for the three-peat," Cook said. "We clean up a few things and hopefully we can get under that 300 mark this weekend."

Contact Rob Hunt at

or 765-640-4886.