DEMOTTE — His coach knew it, his parents knew it, the growing crowd following his final few holes knew it.
Pretty much everybody but Nick Gushrowski was aware of the fact that the Michigan City junior needed a par-par finish to secure another trip to the state finals.
One mis-step and he's in a playoff for the final spot. Anything worse and his season is done. Over.
"He didn't have a clue," Wolves coach Jeff Edinger said.
Maybe it was just as well.
Gushrowski, playing in the final threesome of Thursday's Lake Central Regional at Sandy Pines, scrambled for an incredible par on eight (his 17th hole), where he twice had to hit out of deep pot bunkers before banging a slippery downhill 35-footer. He then coolly bottomed an eight-footer for four on No. 9 to finish off a 76 that left a pair of players sitting at 77 disappointed.
"I was just praying to God he got up and down on eight," Edinger said. "I'd give you 50 balls and you'd make one maybe. He had to touch it like it was a two-footer. It's trickling, trickling and he buries it. Everyone's going nuts. It was like a last-second shot of March Madness. I trust him with his wedge and putter. His short game out here is second to none. He's put in hours practicing on fast greens like this. He's been out to Whitaker Woods a lot, getting ready for this moment."
Gushrowski admitted being "a little lucky" with a bounce off a tree on his tee shot on nine that gave him a clear look with a six-iron to the green.
"The last two holes, I just struggled to keep it in play," he said. "I was really happy with my putting. Early on in the year when we came here, I had a lot of three putts. I really struggled with the speed. Over the past month, month-and-a-half, I really worked on my speed, and it helped a lot. For high school, (these greens) are a lot faster. At sectionals, I really struggled with my driver. I only hit it a couple times. I was mainly hitting three-wood. I knew the greens, I knew what was uphill, what was downhill, where to miss it if I didn't hit it good."
The final scorecard read 38-38 for Gushrowski's 18 holes, a marked improvement over his round of 84 in the LC Invite.
"We played a practice round, we had it all planned, every club, every hole, where he wanted to be. He got a little shaky the last couple holes, but he executed it," Edinger said. "It felt like my kid out there. I couldn't imagine how the Gushrowskis felt. I'm really proud of him. I have no words really. I'm just really excited for him. I'm happy he's going back. Back-to-back years, I think it's been a while for somebody from City. It's no fluke. It's serious now. This year, it was expected. His teammates were on his case all year long. You're going to state, I want a state champ, I want this, I want that. He held it together so nicely with everybody throwing all these things at him. He kind of just did what he does and weathered the storm."
Michigan City topped the trio of La Porte County teams in the field with a 399. La Porte shot 410 and Marquette Catholic 426. Carmel lapped the field with a eye-popping 291, followed by Crown Point (320) and Guerin Catholic (321), who also qualify for next week's state finals at Prairie View.
"This course is significantly tougher," Edinger said of the new regional site. "It's a little shorter, but the trouble, the bunkers, the greens, everything, and Nick had a one-shot difference (from last year). The scores were high, outside of Carmel."
La Porte played without Graham Siefker and Cas Pulaski, who were sidelined for "outside circumstances," according to coach Eric Wozniak, with Tayler Menke and Mason Jones taking their places.
"It was a rough day for us," Wozniak said. "The lineup we brought down was less experienced. The kids who played are going to be playing next year, too, so the experience they got out of here is invaluable. They had a tough round, but that makes our goal next year that much more visible."
The Slicers' Max Holmes was in the individual hunt after an opening 38, but blew up with a 48 on the back, hampered by several errant tee shots that resulted in penalties.
"He was flirting with out of bounds more than he has been, which was uncharacteristic," Wozniak said. "He still had some magnificent holes that can't be discounted. You can't ignore the fact that he had a 38 on the front. He earned every bit of it. He played so smart. He was in some situations where it looked like he could've easily taken an unplayable, and he not only hits it, but hits it well. A couple bad holes really takes you of the picture, with the competition you have here. He never let it affect him. He's a fantastic golfer. He battled through some injuries. He had a good year. He'll be back next year. You've got to learn from it. You've got to grow, and I know he will."
Robert Pruzin paced the Blazers with an 89. Marquette had to count its fifth score as a result of Charlie O'Halloran's disqualification. His threesome all hit from the wrong tee box on a hole.
"We just came to have fun," Blazers coach Cody Ward said. "The weather was great. The last time we came here, it was snowing. Not too bad I think, but we could obviously be better. It was a great experience. We just have to build off of this. Hopefully, they got into some situations they can learn from and get better from, be under pressure a little bit. That comes with this type of place. We can be great next year if they work hard this summer. If I can get them all on the same page, we should be pretty strong."
Individually, La Crosse's Jaye Mitzner finished with a 125.