Not many players came off the final greens on the ninth and 18th holes at Prairie View Golf Club during the boys golf state tournament a year ago as frustrated as Michigan City's Nick Gushrowski, who carded an opening-round 87 before bouncing back to post a much cleaner 77 on the final day.
Skip ahead a year to Tuesday's opening round at the same course down in Carmel during the same tournament and Gushrowski, now a junior, got off to a better start, overcoming a bogey and a double bogey beginning on the back nine to finish with a 6-over par 78, He's eight shots back of leaders Nick Dentino (Carmel) and Kash Bellar (Peru) on the individual leaderboard, who both carded 2-under 70s in the first 18 holes to pace the field.
"It went pretty well," Gushrowski said after his round. "I had a shaky start going bogey, double, but it's not anything new for me here. That's how I started last year and my second round, too."
After dropping three strokes in the opening two holes of the tournament, Gushrowski settled down and birdied the 510-yard par-5 13th hole to get back to plus two early on in the day before conceding a stroke after on the par-4 16th hole to make the turn with a 39.
The finish of the day wasn't exactly what Gushrowski wanted to see — three bogeys in the final six holes including a double bogey on the par-4 ninth hole to cap his day — but where his irons lacked, his woods and putter bailed him out on more than one occassion.
"My iron game is pretty weak right now. I'm going through a couple swing changes with them," Gushrowski said. "My driver and putter were really good. They really saved me some shots out there. The chipping on the course is a lot different to get used to. The type of grass on the greens aren't for balls that spin as much, so you really have to play for a lot more roll."
Gushrowski was pleased with the results, but knows there's plenty of work left to do to reach what coach Jeff Edinger calls "his ultimate goal" of medaling as one of the top 10 finishers in the tournament.
"It went well today. He shaved nine shots off his round here last year," Edinger said. "He really hit the ball well. The only two holes he didn't were the second hole and his 18th hole where he double bogeyed both holes, but other than that, I thought he hit the ball well all day."
Edinger credited the ups and downs of last year's opening round to Gushrowski sitting just four shots of a medal heading into today's round (six players tied at two over overall).
"We definitely had a much better gameplan on how to attack the golf course this time around," Edinger said. "We knew the spots where to miss and where you had to be on certain greens. Things like that helped, especially being that it's just the fifth time he's played a round (at Prairie View). That versus his very first competitive round there (last year) definitely helped out today."
With the unique tee pairings for the tournament having the leaders go off in the first groups, followed by the teams who qualified, and then the rest of the individual field, Gushrowski said it'll be a little weird playing in the third-to-last group with almost everybody out in front of him, but he's focused on the course, not the competition.
"There's a couple key holes out there for me personally for my game that I need to get through," he said. "Par would be great, bogey wouldn't be too bad, but I need to avoid the doubles and losing two shots on one hole. (No.) 11 is going to be one of those key holes. The pin position will be a lot easier on 11 (today). Getting a par there would be great considering how much trouble that hole's given me in the past."
Reach Michael Whitlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.