Caston’s Pugh shoots 86, advances as individual
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Rochester boys golf team shot a 327 and finished second out of 11 complete teams at the Logansport sectional at Dykeman Park Golf Course Friday. The team qualified for the Lake Central regional at Sandy Pines Golf Club in DeMotte Thursday. Rochester will tee off at 10:40 a.m. Eastern. From left – Drew Strasser, Ashton Musselman, Noah Riffle, Enrique Navarro, J.R. McLochlin.
LOGANSPORT — After a 1980 television cliffhanger, fans of the show “Dallas” wondered, “Who shot J.R.?”
Forty-three years later, those interested in the Rochester boys golf team might wonder, “What did J.R. shoot?”
That would refer to J.R. McLochlin, and the junior navigated the Dykeman Park Golf Course for a team-low 76 and help the Zebras take second at the Logansport sectional Friday and advance to the regional.
Twin Lakes won the sectional for the third straight year with a 299. Rochester (327) and Rensselaer (342) also advanced to the regional, which Lake Central will host at Sandy Pines Golf Course in DeMotte on Thursday. The regional will start at 9 a.m. Eastern, and Rochester will tee off at 10:40 a.m. Eastern.
Meanwhile, Caston senior Colby Pugh shot an 86 to advance as an individual on a non-advancing team. Logansport’s Logan Lange (84) and Brady Bair (86) also advanced.
“I’m speechless,” Pugh said. “It’s amazing. I’ve been dreaming this since sophomore year when I started playing.”
Twin Lakes’ Leo Dellinger was the medalist with a 70.
The top three teams and top three individuals on non-advancing teams moved on to Sandy Pines.
Hours before graduating high school, Drew Strasser shot a 79 for the Zebras. Noah Riffle had an 81, Ashton Musselman had a 91, and Enrique Navarro had a 94 to round out the Rochester scorecard.
McLochlin is going to regional for the third time. He also made it as part of the team in 2021 and as an individual last year
“It actually feels better this time because I’m not alone,” McLochlin said. “I have my team, and we’re actually planning on doing some real cool stuff at regional, like staying at a hotel the day before in our practice round.”
Strasser also made it with the team in 2021, but this might have felt different. Rochester coach Mason Heyde has known Strasser since Strasser was in middle school and played for Heyde on the basketball and tennis teams back then.
Heyde took over as interim tennis coach this year and was there when Strasser made his return to high school sports at the tennis sectional two months after Strasser suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and a lung infection that kept him hospitalized for weeks.
“It’s awesome that he got to do that,” Heyde said of playing in the tennis sectional. “And coming into this year, being able to advance. He played great golf today. … He was set to put up a really good number, but still a great score. And we got done really early, so he’s even going to make graduation today.”
Riffle, Musselman and Navarro will be first-time regional participants.
“It feels amazing,” Riffle said. “This is my first time at regionals actually competing, so it’s going to be great since we have the entire team.”
Heyde, a 2008 Rochester grad who was a member of the last Rochester team to make state in 2006, said he felt at ease when he heard that Logansport shot a 355. But he said being a coach affected his outlook more than being a player did.
“I think I was more nervous last night laying in bed thinking about it than I ever was as a player,” Heyde said. “We should make it out. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t. And then you’re just sitting there like, ‘OK, but this could happen, or that could happen.’ … It was weird. I think I was definitely more nervous as a coach than I was as a player.”
Riffle said he struggled reading the speed of the greens. He laughed and said he “forgot how to putt,” but while the back nine is both longer and more difficult than the front nine according to coach Mason Heyde, Riffle had a lower score on the back nine (38) than the front.
Riffle said he learned how to play when he was 6 but became dedicated when he was 13. At that time, the pandemic had just started, and he spent a lot of time on the course as an athletic activity. He said playing high school golf has spurred him to get better.
As for the sectional, he praised assistant coach and 2021 Rochester grad Wade Shafer for his advice.
“He just helped me mentally calm down and go back to the basics and just (do) simple things,” Riffle said. “Just get me thinking straight again.”
Among other RTC area teams, Pioneer was sixth among 11 complete teams with a 384, and Caston was seventh with a 409.
Micah Rans led Pioneer with an 89. Jaden Seward had a 95, Tayt Smith had a 98, Brady Price had a 102, and Cole Franklin fired a 103.
In addition to Pugh’s 86, A.J. Dague had an 88, Luke Graham had a 112, and Chas Warpenburg had a 123 for Caston.
Pugh, who did not have a birdie but did have five pars, said he didn’t think an 86 would be good enough. He thought he would need an 82 or lower.
“I love this course,” Pugh said. “I have a membership here. The par 3s are long and tough, but it’s tough for everybody too. It really depends on a straight shot, but that makes it tough.”
Pugh, who is also a starting guard on the Caston boys basketball team, tore his ACL last summer. He said the injury did not affect his golf game much.
“I luckily recovered pretty quickly and got back to basketball in time,” Pugh said. “But golf? It didn’t affect it at all, which I’m glad it didn’t.”
Pugh thanked current coach Chuck Evans and last year’s coach Jeremy Rentschler on working on his grip and his focus. He also thanked Caston boys basketball coach Carl Davis.
“Mentally he just helped me so much this whole year,” Pugh said. “He wished me luck every match.”
While celebrating his accomplishment, he had solace for Dague, the Hoosier North medalist.
“I’m pretty upset for him,” Pugh said. “I know he’s upset, but he took it really well. He gave me fist bumps. That really meant a lot. I would trade spots with him in a heartbeat. He’s worked so hard every day in his life.”
at Dykeman Park Golf Course, Logansport, Friday (par 70)
Twin Lakes 299, Rochester 327, Rensselaer 342, Logansport 355, Winamac 377, Pioneer 384, Caston 409, Tri-County 410, North Newton 456, West Central 466, South Newton 472, Frontier (incomplete team)
TWIN LAKES (299): Dellinger 70, Alexander 74, Ousley 76, Kaufman 79, (Woodley 85)
ROCHESTER (327): J.R. McLochlin (36-40) 76, Drew Strasser (38-41) 79, Noah Riffle (43-38) 81, Ashton Musselman (47-44) 91, (Enrique Navarro (44-50) 94)
RENSSELAER (342): Odle 83, Geleott 83, Drone 87, Mushett 89, (Porter 91)
LOGANSPORT (355): Lange 84, Bair 86, Howard 88, Hamm 97, (Baldwin 100)
WINAMAC (377): Hines 88, Fredel 91, Garner 92, Fulmer 106, (Biros 107)
PIONEER (384): Micah Rans (43-46) 89, Jaden Seward (45-50) 95, Tayt Smith (50-48) 98, Brady Price (50-52) 102, (Cole Franklin (52-51) 103)
CASTON (409): Colby Pugh (42-44) 86, A.J. Dague (43-45) 88, Luke Graham (56-56) 112, Chas Warpenburg (58-65) 123
TRI-COUNTY (410): Jordan 92, Dreblow 93, Misch 109, Northrup 116, (Aldaz 121)
NORTH NEWTON (456): Mark 105, Barron 112, Dunn 116, Bultema 123, (Halfman 132)
WEST CENTRAL (466): Tarr 100, Schuktz 115, Coffing 125, Randolph 126, (Lynch 130)
SOUTH NEWTON (472): Tebo 101, Davidson 122, Hamilton 124, Burdick 125, (LaFlech 140)
FRONTIER: Pekney 98, Thomas 140
Top three individuals on non-advancing teams: 1. Logan Lange (Logansport) – 84, t-2. Brady Bair (Logansport) – 86, t-2. Colby Pugh (Caston) – 86
Medalist: Leo Dellinger (Twin Lakes) – 70