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What’s it like to play a golf tournament in an eclipse?

NOBLESVILLE — A blaring horn echoes throughout the Purgatory Golf Club and a hush falls over the sprawling 218-acre course.

Everyone on the course is still. Golf carts are parked atop the course’s rolling hills and all eyes are to the sky, ready to witness the first total solar eclipse since 1979. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the vast greenery of a golf course is the perfect place to take in the event.

UIndy freshman Maverick Conaway just hit his tee shot when the Ken Partridge Invitational was paused. He’s taking time to soak in the moment, but he has to remain focused — he’s in the lead during Day 2 of the tournament.

“It was definitely strange,” Conaway said. “None of us have ever seen a solar eclipse before. So, just that whole aspect was pretty cool when it got completely dark, and the whole transition from when it was coming in, it was something I couldn’t imagine.

“Playing in it, that’s just something else. To take a break in the middle of the round then start playing again. … With it only being 15-20 minutes, it really wasn’t hard to stay in my current mindset.”

Ahead of the eclipse, UIndy golf coach Brent Nicoson spoke to multiple meteorologists to determine how to best witness the event. With the help of UIndy and the Indiana Sports Corp, solar eclipse glasses were provided for everyone in attendance. Pausing a golf tournament is rare, but not completely unheard of. Inclement weather or heavy fog can delay tournaments for hours, so Nicoson knew his players were able to stop, witness the eclipse and continue playing a competitive round of golf.

“We have to be humans just the same as we have to be competitive golfers and teams trying to get something accomplished,” Nicoson said. “We wanted to stop play a little bit early, and we warned them ahead of time: Get your phones out, we gave them the glasses and we told them they’re gonna blow the horn five or 10 minutes before totality. We wanted them to be a part of it.”

The slight pause didn’t throw Conaway off his game. He finished Day 2 shooting a 7-under par 65. He’s 6-under par for the tournament with a two-stroke lead over Missouri S & T’s Jeppe Thybo heading into the final day.

Conaway is part of a group of talented freshmen leading the Greyhounds this season. In March, the ‘Hounds won the Spring Break Invite in Lexington, Ky. The win was the first time an all-freshman lineup won a team title in school history. Ben Keil took medalist honors with a 10-under par. Simon Engman, Alexander Nestun, Cameron Young, Keil and Conaway combined to go 12-under par, giving the Hounds an 11-shot win.

Excelling in his first year of college golf isn’t a surprise to Conaway’s parents Aaron and Christy. When most kids were just learning to walk, Maverick already had golf clubs in his hands. Back at Purgatory, a place the Tipton native has played countless times before, the strong round and a solar eclipse makes for a day the family will never forget.

“It meant a lot. It was great,” Aaron said. “It was nice to be able to enjoy those few minutes with him to see something that I may never see again in my lifetime. I couldn’t pick a better place to see it.”

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