Cougars looking for balance on green

GREENFIELD — Up one match and down the next, the Greenfield-Central girls golf team eventually wore down after last year’s roller coaster season.

Head coach Russ Wiley saw it. The players felt the effects firsthand, and the scores echoed their frustration.

Consistency was elusive and the grind took hold in 2014 as Wiley admits, his players tired out down the stretch.

“We had some really nice matches and had everyone in the 40s, and then had some pretty bad ones,” he said. “I think that we’re feeling we can get away from that this year. That’s definitely a goal we have to be more consistent on a match to match basis.”

With their entire lineup back, a year older and more experienced, the Cougars are looking to put the past in the rearview once the season opens Saturday in Greensburg.

In an effort to turn the page, they’ve worked on their games this summer, led by senior Makenzie Fisk, a three-time regional qualifier.

Fisk spent her summer competing in the Indiana Golf Foundation Junior Tour along with fellow county golfers Mt. Vernon’s Molly Yee and New Palestine’s Mackenzie Black.

In those tournaments, Fisk took second overall with an 83 at Dye’s Walk Country Club in Greenwood last month and tied for second at Brookshire Golf Club in Carmel just prior to the season’s first official practice.

At Hillview Country Club in Franklin, she was seventh and carded a fifth-place tie at New Castle’s Westwood Golf Club in June.

“They don’t play the women’s tee. They often will put them back to the blue tee or even the white,” Wiley said. “So their playing a course that could be over 1,000 yards longer over 18 holes from what they would see in high school. That’s the thing that I think will really help stretch her game a little bit more.”

As one of the only golfers to have substantial varsity time entering last season, Fisk earned her second all-Hoosier Heritage Conference selection and returns to her comfort zone as the team’s No. 1 in the lineup after holding the spot for the past two seasons.

Narrowly missing out on another all-Hancock County honor, Fisk is shooting for a larger goal in her final go around.

“She’s definitely excited to play, and she hasn’t had that breakthrough round in the sectional or regional yet; one where she would consider a great number for herself. That’s what she’s aiming for,” Wiley noted. “She hasn’t come close to becoming a state finalist as an individual, and I know that’s something she really wants to do. She’s still got to put that good round in there at the end of the year.”

Fisk isn’t alone in her quest.

Junior Megan Garner, the team’s projected No. 2 golfer lost out on a regional berth by one stroke at sectional last September. Splitting time between band and golf, Wiley points to her work ethic and focus when discussing her potential.

Making a “considerable jump” from her freshman season to the next, Wiley believes if Garner can continue the trend, the Cougars could have a “solid” top-two in their lineup along with Fisk.

Garner improved her sectional score by nine strokes from her first year.

The experience gained should play a factor for the rest of the probable starters now that they’ve gone through the torrid pace of a seven week season, the long weeknights and the often quick turnarounds, sometimes, the very next day.

Senior Kim Miles, junior Amanda Edwards and sophomore Lindsey McCord are expected to compete for staring roles along with senior Clara Bogan and a few more newcomers.

If the group can find success early, Wiley hopes the momentum could get the Cougars back in the hunt after being the hunted in the county for several years. Greenfield-Central won the county championship for seven straight seasons before Mt. Vernon snapped their streak in 2012.

New Palestine captured the team title last season en route to a sectional crown and a 12th-place finish at state.

“I’d like to challenge for county. Whether or not that’s going to happen remains to be seen,” Wiley said. “That’s always the goal. We won it a few years in a row when I started coaching, so we’re always trying to get it back. It’s still going to be more of a process though to see if it’s going to happen.

“I would guess it’s going to be us and Mt. Vernon chasing (New Palestine) down.”

At a glance

GREENFIELD-CENTRAL

Coach: Russ Wiley, 7th season

Home course: Hawk’s Tail, Greenfield

2014: Hancock County Tourney, 3rd, 184 (nine holes); Hoosier Heritage Conference, 6th, 401; Sectional, 6th, 388.

Leading the way: Makenzie Fisk has advanced to regional twice as an individual and once with her team the past three years. With a strong summer season through the Indiana Golf Foundation Junior Tour behind her, Fisk should challenge as one of the top girls golfer in the county.

Outlook: Returning all five scorers from sectional should make the Cougars a darkhorse to compete for the county and maybe more if they can find consistency. Lindsey McCord, who missed the regional cut by five strokes as a freshman is an underclassman to watch along with junior returnee Megan Garner.

Teeing off: The Cougars swing into action Saturday morning at the Greensburg Invitational.

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.