Large crowds aren’t often a part of the backdrop of high school golf competitions, though that’s delightfully different.
One day in June 1994, one by one, the young men making up Tipton’s starting five took their turn – a moment in the sun, if you will – walking down the 18th fairway at the Club of Prestwick in Avon.
Zack Miller, the Blue Devils junior No. 1 player who helped lead the program to a convincing state championship with a 21-stroke margin over runner-up Floyd Central, was the latest to do so.
“It was a fun time,” recalls Miller, 45, who now resides in Zionsville with his wife, Emily, and their three children. “There was a lot of camaraderie on this team. The best thing was that we knew we were a good team, but nobody else did.
“We had a lot of fun with it.”
Hovering under the high school golf radar alongside Miller were rookie Brian Pearce, the team’s No. 2 player; elder No. 3 Donnie Wolfe; junior Rusty Ripberger and senior Matt Quigley.
At that time, Miller’s father, Jack, was the pro at Tipton Golf Club.
“I remember when I was a kid, Brian, Rusty and I grew up on the golf course as golf rats,” Zack Miller said. “We were on the course at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and played golf all day.
“There was a level of comfort among us. My father was very open to junior golf. He encouraged him.
Blue Devils coach Kenny Day, who graduated from Tipton in 1970, began his tenure in 1982. At 70, he is still at the helm today.
“To be honest, the five boys who played on the state championship team had played a lot of golf,” Day said. “I’ve taken teams to national finals, and some of them haven’t made it to day two.”
Example, two years earlier.
This time around, however, Day’s team owned Day 1, as all five golfers shot in the 70s on Prestwick’s 6,290-yard setup. Tipton’s total of 306 provided an eight-hit cushion over Jasper and nine better than Floyd Central and Richmond entering the final round.
Prestwick was set up at a muscle-tiring 6,885 yards for Day 2. This, combined with tougher pin placements, lifted the scores of seven of the other eight teams in contention by an average of 11.1 strokes.
The Blue Devils were barely impacted, shooting a 307.
Miller and Pearce both carded 76 on day two, Wolfe had a 77, Ripberger a 78 and Quigley an 83.
“We had such a lead after day one that after holes 15 and 16 on day two, we pretty much knew not to mess up the last few holes,” Day said.
Not bad for a team ranked ninth in Indiana at the end of the regular season.
“We felt like we were going to win the state after the first nine on Day 2,” Miller said. “I give Kenny a lot of credit for keeping us loose. He kept the fun, kept a routine.
Tipton Boys Golf won four section titles during the 1990s – 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1998 – with the school’s other crown coming in 2011. Dating back to the 1930s, Tipton Boys Golf has made a total of 12 state finals, most recently in 2012.
The other top 10s were in 1953 (eighth) and 1995 (10th).
Maybe one day a Blue Devils team will have the talent and motivation to mirror what that 1994 team was able to accomplish.
The state finals for girls and boys of golf have since changed courses, not once, but twice.
Prestwick has hosted the boys for 14 years (1987-2000), the Legends of Indiana for 14 years (2001-2013) and Prarie View Golf Club in Carmel since then.
Nonetheless, those walks on the 18th fairway at Prestwick remain vivid for Tipton’s five golfers nearly three decades later.
Don’t expect them to play a fade anytime soon.