By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The difference between self-confidence and egotistical arrogance is presentation. Egos are loud, high maintenance, self-promoting. Confidence is a quiet strength. It’s audible without a sound.
Bedford North Lawrence senior Ethan Stanley, who could finish his career as one of the best in program history, has game, style, attitude. His goals are Himalayan in stature, but his stance is solid, grounded. He will let his clubs do most of the chattering.
Stanley, chasing a fourth straight trip to the IHSAA state finals, has a simple target: a state championship. Why not shoot for the sky? He will climb into the high altitude. Can he drag the Stars to that height?
Stanley is a hammer, capable of pounding out low numbers on any day, any course. BNL’s team key is the rest of the nails as coach Mike Wright looks to piece together a contender for conference and sectional titles.
BNL lost considerable talent from last season, but Stanley and two other tournament starters return for 2019. The question is who else, from a large talent pool, is ready and worthy.
“There are a lot of question marks,” Wright said. “We need more depth, more consistency. That was our big problem last year. It depended on which team showed up.”
In the postseason, which is the final measuring stick, BNL was second in the sectional and 10th in the regional. The Stars bid farewell to left-handed ace Daylen Tidd and veteran Corbin Bushey. They will build around Stanley, junior Cole Sanders and senior Jeven Adams. After that, almost any name could be written on the scorecard.
“We will have a wide-open field and it could change weekly,” Wright said, rattling off potential candidates like senior Colton Spires, freshman Trevin Hutchinson and senior Logan Chastain. “Ethan is our leader, without a doubt.”
Stanley has been a fixture since his freshman campaign, which he capped with a tremendous regional round that helped the Stars advance to the state finals. They went back to the final stage of the state series in 2017. Last year, only Stanley (who fired a 71 to finish tied for second in the regional) survived.
His lonely trips around Prairie View Golf Club were frustrating, carding a pair of 76s to finish tied for 20th. Just a little help from his putter – any help at all – would have been appreciated. He hit the ball well enough, tee to green. He’s hungrier now than ever before.
“The big thing is winning the state,” Stanley said without a trace of cockiness. “That’s been the goal since freshman year. Last year I was happy with parts of the season. This year I’m really trying to make a run at state. My goal is to give myself a chance every tournament I play in, help my team as much as I can.”
Despite the high standards he sets for himself, he does not feel pressure to perform. He’s already made his college choice (University of Indianapolis), so there’s no one to impress.
“It definitely helps a lot,” he said. “It’s all settled and I’m a lot more relaxed. I don’t feel any pressure. I just want to perform for myself. It’s an individual sport, in a team setting, so I’m playing for myself and trying to help the team out at the same time.”
Wright will be able to spend time and energy with Sanders, Adams and the rest, hoping to coax solid numbers and prepare them for their supporting roles. Somebody will need to step forward.
“I feel good about the team,” Stanley said. “They’ve been practicing hard. If we can get a few guys to come in and put some good numbers up, we have a good chance.”
“Ethan has been a leader since he was a freshman,” Wright said. “ He’s going to push people in practice, he’s going to do everything he can to make everyone better.
“It’s really neat to see a senior, who’s already committed to a college, be so hungry. He’s got a goal to get to the state all four years. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”
BNL will open the regular season on March 30 in the Seymour Invitational.