Jonathan Haas took the road less traveled for his golf team this year, and it paid off.

Haas, the first-year boys coach at Crown Point, decided before the season began that he was going to do some things differently to prepare his team for postseason play.

It was the perfect moment for the Post-Tribune’s Coach of the Year to experiment.

The state tournament format had been restructured, reducing the number of regionals from seven to five, making it more difficult for teams to advance downstate.

And the sectionals had been rearranged, with the Bulldogs moving from Boone Grove (Lakes of the Four Seasons) to Lake Central (Palmira).

With a decent mix of veterans and young players, Haas decided to load up on away matches, playing in Lafayette twice, Lebanon, Warsaw and at Peru for the Hall of Fame tournament.

It definitely wasn’t a conventional move — it meant not sending a varsity team to Rensselaer and Kankakee Valley for two of their regularly scheduled local tournaments, but it was a move that Haas figured would help.

It did help. The Bulldogs were the only team to beat Valparaiso in conference play this season and they were one good back nine away from qualifying for state after a solid front nine at the Lafayette Regional.

They slipped on the back nine, ultimately finishing in fifth place, 10 strokes back.

“We were in the thick of things,” he said. “”We felt confident. We knew we had a chance. We shot the second best score of the year and still finished fifth. That tells you how tough it was.”

Haas said he decided to travel the state in search of quality competition because “we knew we didn’t need to play Valparaiso six times to know they were good.”

That is the problem with local tournaments. Sometimes, the routine doesn’t always translate into postseason success.

Valparaiso was fantastic everywhere all year except for at the state finals. Valparaiso coach Wayne Lichtenberger would admit as much.

Haas said the time on the road gave his team an element of confidence it might not have had if he decided to stay close.

“We knew we could compete,” he said. “We spent a lot of time on the bus.”

Part of the reason the Bulldogs could compete was because they had Mike and Pat Mudd, Luke Lambert, Mike Lee and Grant Miller.

The Mudds and Lambert are gone.

Lee, a sophomore, is the best returning player from Northwest Indiana back next year. He finished 22nd in state — the second best finish of anyone from the area.

And Miller is a sophomore.

Haas believes because of the experience his junior varsity team got from playing around Northwest Indiana and because of Lee and Miller, his team will be formidable next year.