Mt. Vernon

Coach: Aaron Shewman

Home course: Arrowhead Golf Course, Greenfield

2015 recap: The Marauders finished the 2015 season with a 14-5 record. They were second behind New Palestine (358) at sectional with a score of 371. Mt. Vernon placed third at the Hancock County Meet and at the Hoosier Heritage Conference Championships. The Marauders advanced to regional as a team for the first time since 2013.

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Leading the way: Charley True was a freshman phenom in 2015. A newcomer for the Marauders last fall, she catapulted her name among the county’s elite quickly, securing all-HHC and All-Hancock County honors. She tied for 11th at the two-day IHSAA State Finals at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel with an impressive 16-over par 160.

Outlook: For the first time in a decade Mt. Vernon will have a new girls golf coach.

At the end of the 2015-16 season, Caleb Zelencik stepped down after leading the Marauders to a pair of sectional titles and two Hancock County team championships during his 10-year tenure.

The Marauders closed Zelencik’s final campaign with a 14-5 record and were third at both the Hancock County Meet and at the Hoosier Heritage Conference Championships.

Mt. Vernon surged to a sectional runner-up finish behind eventual champion New Palestine, but a team regional berth was only the beginning.

Freshman Charley True, who won sectional with a 2-over par 74, went on to tie for 11th at the IHSAA State Finals with a 16-over par 160 to record one of the best individual performances by a freshman in girls program history.

True’s return this fall is a big reason new head coach Aaron Shewman couldn’t pass up the opportunity created by Zelencik’s departure.

“I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard she can hit it really far,” Shewman remarked on True’s driving forte on the course. “She’s been playing all summer. Charley is ready to go.”

Shewman, 46, is champing at the bit, too.

He was approved as the new head coach by the Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. board July 18. He had his first meeting just last week to introduce himself to the players and parents.

The transition has been rapid for the former Winchester girls coach (2013 and 2014) with only nine days between his hiring and the team’s first practice.

“I’m ready,” Shewman said. “Everyone is quiet right now, but we’re getting to know each other. I just want them to have fun and win as many as we can. With a young team, I’m not really sure what might happen, but my goal is to have a winning record.”

True gives the Marauders a legitimate chance every match. As a freshman, she was fourth overall at the county meet and second in the HHC Championships to earn honors in both.

The loss of seniors Molly Yee and Briley Wills to graduation will be difficult to overcome, said Shewman, but the team’s youth is abundant.

With five sophomores and one freshman newcomer in Katie Davis, the Marauders return three sectional starters in True, Eva Hampton and Savannah McKemie. Lily Hampton and Morgan Hear are both sophomores as well.

Teeing off: The Marauders opened the season yesterday vs. Pendleton Heights at Arrowhead Golf Course. Next match is today vs. Shelbyville at Arrowhead, 4:30 p.m.

New Palestine

Coach: Gregg Greene

Home course: Hawk’s Tail, Greenfield

2015 recap: Coach Greene’s Dragons successfully defended their crowns and picked up another one along the way in 2015. New Palestine repeated as Hancock County champions and clinched its second straight sectional title to advance onto regional where they were eighth overall. Prior to the postseason, the program won its first Hoosier Heritage Conference championship since 1996.

Leading the way: Mackenzi Black picked up right where she left off in 2014. As a seasoned sophomore last fall, Black earned her second straight All-Hancock County distinction and was All-Hoosier Heritage Conference. She took third at sectional to help the Dragons win the title.

Outlook: The target loomed large over the New Palestine girls golf team last fall, but the Dragons didn’t flinch.

Instead, they accomplished everything they wanted — except one.

“They want to make it to state,” New Palestine head coach Gregg Greene remarked on his team’s focus. “That’s one of their team goals. I know everybody always puts that down, but they legitimately have a chance to make that happen.”

The Dragons made winning a routine in 2015, repeating as Hancock County champions and clinching the program’s first Hoosier Heritage Conference title since 1996.

In the sectional, they rediscovered their swings at Old Oakland Golf Club  —where they lost prior during the regular season against Mt. Vernon — to win their second straight team championship.

They posted a 15-4 record and started out 9-1 with a big win against state-ranked Fishers, but the only thing they couldn’t do was make it back to the IHSAA State Finals.

In 2014, the Dragons placed third at regional to earn a state berth where they placed 12th as a team.

Despite the loss of two key seniors in Cassie Rooks and Carly Jones, the Dragons are hopeful with the return of junior Mackenzi Black as the team’s top golfer.

Seniors Cassidy Harp and Payton Hill give New Palestine three starters back from last year’s playoff roster, but the remaining spots could materialize into a season-long battle, according to Greene.

“We have five incoming freshmen that are pretty talented,” said Greene, who is entering his 13th season. “Between the other girls that we still have and the incoming group, it’s going to be very competitive to make it into the top five.”

Savannah Rowe, a senior, provides experienced depth along with junior Regina Olson. The future, however, is now with Anna Lee Fox, Issy Grey, Rachel Burnell, Tracy Olson and Jordan Jackson all in the mix for playing time in their first years.

“They looked really great at a team camp we did in Franklin,” Greene said. “It’s going to be a fun fall.”

Black has looked particularly sharp during practice, fully healed from a stress fracture which curtailed her sophomore campaign.

“It made it painful for her to even walk on. It isn’t easy playing golf that way,” Greene said. “She just gutted out the final part of the season. It was hard on her.”

Black has accelerated her development this offseason by working with a swing coach, something she was unable to hone as a sophomore due to her injury.

As a freshman, Black earned all-county honors. Last year, she won the tournament as a with a 1-over par 36 and led the 2015 sectional champions with an 9-over par 81. She shot an 80 for third overall at the HHC Championships.

“She was a very solid freshman player that really helped that bunch make it to the state finals. A year ago, she had to take the team on her shoulders even though she was only a sophomore,” Greene said. “The other girls look up to her. She is a hard worker and the leader of the team.”

The Dragons’ schedule will have them well prepared to sweep their wish list. New Palestine plays every Saturday this year with the exception of Labor Day weekend by design to pack in several 18-hole tournaments.

They host 15th-ranked Noblesville on Aug. 11, travel to the regional site in Lapel on Aug. 13, will face No. 5 Fishers on Aug. 24, will contend with No. 9 Hamilton Southeastern and No. 2 Westfield on Sept. 6, and host their own invitational on Aug. 27.

“We’re going to defend the conference championship, we’re going to defend the sectional championship, and we’re going to defend the county championship,” Greene said. “If it’s within your grasp, it’s a good thing to have as a goal, to say every day we’re going to get better and find something to improve on.

“In the end, hopefully, it all comes together when it matters.”

Teeing off: The Dragons open the season Thursday at Southport, 4 p.m. They play two matches in three days with an away contest at New Castle Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

Eastern Hancock

Coach: Joe Patton

Home course: Royal Hylands, Knightstown

2015 recap: It was a season that almost wasn’t. Thankfully, Royals’ standout Abby Fout is a solid recruiter. After losing several players from their 2014 roster, the Royals jumped from two to six players as several seniors and junior Emiley Carlton were persuaded by Fout to join the team. As a result, the team competed with at full lineup and placed 11th at sectional.

Leading the way: Abby Fout returns as the veteran on the team in 2015. An unofficial assistant coach due to her recruiting talent, Fout led the team routinely and shot a team-best 117 at sectional with aims to improve in her final campaign with new head coach Joe Patton.

Outlook: A new era is set to begin at Eastern Hancock this fall, and recently hired girls golf head coach Joe Patton is eager to lay down the foundation.

Patton, 63, is retired from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, where he worked for 39 years. Through that time, he has coached various sports for nearly 15 years.

A Knightstown native and 1970 graduate, Patton is currently coaching junior high basketball for the Panthers, and is an assist junior varsity baseball coach as well.

In the past, he served as a junior varsity assistant football coach but decided to give it up, which freed up his falls.

The timing was perfect with Eastern Hancock looking to find a replacement for former head coach Chelsie Kelley after three seasons at the helm.

“I heard Eastern (Hancock) was looking for a golf coach, and since I’m retired, that’s what I do, play a lot of golf,” Patton laughed. “I thought that worked out pretty well, and their home matches are over here in Knightstown (at Royal Hylands).”

Patton’s goals for the program are two-pronged. First, he wants to instill the fundamentals of a game he routinely plays four to five times a week at Royal Hylands. Two, he wants to re-energize a team that has contended with low participation numbers in recent years.

“I’d like to lead the program for four or five years and help them get it built up,” Patton said. “Knightstown’s numbers were down last year, too, but then this year they have close to 10. I’d like to see the same happen here.”

Three varsity starters are back, giving the team three seniors and a freshman in Lucy Cochard.

Abby Fout returns as the team’s No. 1 golfer. Last year, she helped save the program by recruiting a six-person roster in order to keep the Royals season alive. Eastern Hancock entered preseason practice with only two golfers last August.

“At this point we just have four,” Patton said. “(Aaron) Spaulding and I have talked and there’s a possibility once the season gets started, we might have a few more girls come out.

“That’s the main thing, just to try to get them out there and interested in golf. We want to show them it can be fun, and maybe get them started as freshman to learn the game.”

Senior Emiley Carlton, who joined the team last season, is projected to be the Royals’ No. 2 golfer. Carlton, a 2015-16 All-Hancock County selection in basketball, brings a competitive edge, said Patton.

Alexis Young, a senior, gives the Royals three golfers with postseason experience. Fout led the team with a 117 at sectional as the Royals placed 11th overall at Old Oakland Golf Club.

“What we’re stressing now is just making good contact off the tee, and the short game,” Patton said. “That’s where we are spending a lot of time working.”

Teeing off: The Royals open the year at Hickory Hills to face Wapahani at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. They return to Royal Hylands, their home course last season, to play North Decatur on Aug. 9 at 5 p.m.

Information for the Greenfield-Central Cougars was unavailable by deadline. A season preview for the 2016-17 Cougars will appear in a future edition. 

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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.