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Fairfield's Miller, Zionsville team crowned golf state champions

Rich Torres, Special to
Posted: June 12, 2024
Welcome to the State Finals sign
Photo Credit: Double Edge Media @demllc

CARMEL – The Zionsville Eagles built an early three-stroke lead on opening day during the 87th Annual IHSAA boys golf state finals at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel, and on Wednesday, a strong second-day push turned their long-overdue championship aspirations into reality.

The second-ranked Eagles fired a 16-over-par 304 on Tuesday and finished with an 8-over-par 296 on Day 2 for an overall 24-over-par 600 to clinch their first team state title in 20 years.

Led by first-year head coach Adam Wood, an individual IHSAA state champion from Zionsville in 2013, the Eagles placed three golfers in the top-15 – with two named all-state as members of the top-10 – and four in the top-40 to surpass state runner-up and top-ranked Westfield (605) and third-place finisher Hamilton Southeastern (606).

Fairfield junior Brayden Miller posted a two-day, 36-hole score of 68-71-139 (5-under-par) to win the IHSAA’s individual state title, while becoming the first champion from Elkhart County since 1939.


Brayden Miller of Fairfield wearing first place medal
Fairfield junior Brayden Miller won the individual state championship and became the first Elkhart County golfer since 1939 to claim the title (Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc).


Zionsville senior Andrew Wall paced the Eagles’ lineup by shooting a 70-74-144 for par, which tied him for fifth with Gibson Southern’s Daymian Rij.

Eagles’ sophomore Max Steiner carded a 4-over-par 148 and tied for eighth with Hamilton Southeastern sophomore Mattingly Upchurch and 2023 state champion Guerin Catholic senior Leo Wessel to earn all-state honors.

“I didn’t know where we were throughout the day, so we just all played golf, had fun out there, and we ended up winning it,” Wall said. “This goal had been established with our past coach Steve Simmons. He really wanted one, and we just didn’t get it for him, but we’ve been gunning for this for so long now.”

Zionsville won its first boys golf state title in 2001-02 after placing second in 2000-01 before winning it all again in 2003-04.

The Eagles advanced to the state finals this season after finishing second at the Westfield Sectional behind defending state champion Guerin Catholic and were runners-up at the Harrison Regional.

Zionsville’s third state title marked the first time a former individual IHSAA state champion, serving as a first-year head coach, has guided a group to the team championship in 87 years.

“I’m very proud of the guys. I think this is something that they’ll hang on to for the rest of their lives, which is what I wanted for them,” Wood said. “We came close (when I played). We had some great teams. I had some phenomenal teammates. We had some very strong programs in my years, but of course, winning the big one is difficult, so it was something I was kind of hoping we would be in a position to do. I think that’s what we worked so hard for, to put ourselves in a spot where we could do it.”

The Eagles’ lead fluctuated throughout the state tournament’s final day and grew to six strokes, as Zionsville made its turn onto the course’s back nine.

The group combined to par both the 10th and 11th hole before scoring eagles on 12 and 13 to maintain their cushion over Westfield, which has placed second in three consecutive state finals. The Shamrocks were chasing their first state title since 2015-16.


Zionsville Eagles on the awards stand holding state championship trophy
The Zionsville Eagles captured the team state championship for the first time in 20 years (Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc).


Westfield junior Jake Cesare, an Indiana recruit, tied for second on the leaderboard with a 70-73-143 (1-under-par), which deadlocked him with 2022 state champion senior Aidan Gutierrez of Valparaiso and Leo senior Justin Hicks.

“We knew other teams could also have a great back nine, and we knew no one was going to hand it to anyone. I think someone was going to have to go win it. There’s too much quality golf being played for that to be the case,” Wood said.

“We knew someone was going to have to play a very strong back nine, and the finishing holes here are very challenging. There’s no opportunity to breathe. You have to keep your focus all the way through, and the guys did that. They hit some very quality shots when the pressure was at its highest.”

Zionsville senior Gavin Poole helped provide the Eagles with the numbers they needed to fend off the top contenders, including fourth-place Noblesville (611) and fifth-place Center Grove (613). Guerin Catholic tied Evansville North for sixth with a 616.

Eagles’ freshman Brycen Tisch tied eight other golfers for 39th overall with an 81-76-157 (13-over-par). Senior Bryce Conlee shot an 84-83-167 (23-over-par) for the Eagles.

“The guys did all the leg work. They hit phenomenal shot after phenomenal shot, so the credit is to the five players that pulled it off,” Wood said.

“I don’t leaderboard watch, but I was getting text updates from our support here. I didn’t know exactly where Westfield stood, but I knew at the turn we probably needed a strong back nine, which is fine. We’ve done that before, but it does sort of cement your position a little bit, and we had a really terrific first hour-and-a-half on the back nine, all the way 10 through 13. Pretty much all the way down the lineup.”

Miller, a Cincinnati recruit, made his intentions known on the first day, firing a 4-under-par 68, and on the second day he finished with a total of 31 pars, 10 birdies and only five bogeys.

He had three bogeys during the final 18-hole round, but 11 pars and four birdies kept him atop the leaderboard both days to become the first state champion from his home county since John Williams of Elkhart won the title in 1938-39 at Speedway Golf Course in Indianapolis with a score of 72.

“It’s amazing. I don’t really have words for it. It’s one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever felt in my life,” Miller said. “It means the world to me. All my friends and family came down to watch me. It means the world to me to win in front of them.”

On Day 1, Miller birdie putted six holes. His short-game paid dividends once again on Day 2 to keep him in a groove.

“My putting really bailed me out today. When I hit some bad shots, and I made some really silly mistakes when I shouldn’t have, and my putting really got me out of some trouble,” Miller said.

“Yesterday, I felt great the whole day. From the opening tee shot yesterday, the first one on the course, I hit it off the tee shot and then birdied two. I kind of set sail from there, but today I kind of struggled to find my stride a little bit. I just tried my best to stay in the moment and take it one hole at a time.”


Valparaiso's Aidan Gutierrez tees off
Aidan Gutierrez of Valparaiso, the 2022 state champion, finished tied for second place, his third consecutive top five finish. (Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc).


Valpo's Gutierrez named Mental Attitude Award recipient

Aidan Gutierrez of Valparaiso High School was named the winner of the Fred A. Keesling Mental Attitude Award by the IHSAA Executive Committee during the post-tournament awards ceremony.

The individual state champion in 2022, Gutierrez finished at -1 (73-70-143) today, good for a tie for second place, his third consecutive top five finish.

The son of John and Sara Gutierrez of Valparaiso, Aidan plans to attend Baylor University in the fall where he intends to study business and play golf for the Bears.

With the award, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance presented $1,000 to Valparaiso High School's general scholarship fund in the name of Aidan Gutierrez.

The Executive Committee presents the Fred A. Keesling Award to an outstanding senior participant during the state finals each year dating back to 1971. The recipient of the award, nominated by his principal and coach, was determined to have best demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability in boys golf. The award is named after the late, long-time state tournament director.


Aidan Gutierrez of Valparaiso receives the Mental Attitude Award
Aidan Gutierrez of Valparaiso High School (wearing green) earned the Fred A. Keesling Mental Attitude Award presented by Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance (Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc).