When asked about trying to replace former four-year standout Makenzie Fisk this fall, Greenfield-Central head coach Russ Wiley didn’t dodge the question.
His answer was direct, much like Fisk’s game.
“It’s going to be one of those things where it’s going to take two or three people all being better to replace her score,” Wiley remarked. “I don’t see anyone matching her scoring average from last year. I think they’ll all be a little bit better this year, but not quite at her level.”
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Fisk was a four-year starter and played No. 1 for the Cougars in all but one season. However, in that one, she still carried the lowest scoring average on the team, something she achieved from the first day.
A two-time All-Hoosier Heritage Conference selection, Fisk was named the team’s most valuable player as both a junior and a senior. She helped the Cougars seize a regional qualification during her career and was a four-time regional qualifier — three times as an individual.
As a freshman at Olivet Nazarene this fall, Fisk has moved onto bigger goals.
Her former teammates, however, want to keep the program’s upward swing going. Posting their best season in recent memory, the Cougars finished 2015 with a winning record and turned it up as the season wound down.
At the Hancock County Meet, they were runner-up with a 179, nine strokes behind New Palestine.
At the conference meet, Greenfield-Central took fourth and was fourth again at sectional. The Cougars shot a 385, five strokes shy of a tie with Whiteland for third and a regional berth.
“The two years before last year, we weren’t very good at all, but we took a pretty big jump last year,” Wiley said. “We were right there. We were close to that third spot, and that’s what I want to see, to be able to maintain the progress we’ve made.”
Wiley, entering his eighth season as coach, has four returnees with varsity experience and a roster that stretches seven deep for 2016. Three played in the sectional lineup.
The most prominent of the three is senior Megan Garner, who is moving up from the No. 2 spot and filling the void left behind by Fisk’s graduation.
Along with Garner junior Lindsey McCord and sophomore Phoenix Breese return.
Senior Amanda Edwards, another returnee, looks to factor into the mix in the top of the lineup while the rest could play out over time. Sophomore Rose Genard is back as well.
“I pretty much know what to expect from our top three. We’re looking for that four and five spot. It really could end up being anybody,” Wiley said. “We do have some experience, so we don’t have to completely start over. It’s not like we’ve lost five or six people. That makes for a rough year. Having the five girls back and all playing last year will help.”
The progress Garner and McCord displayed in 2015 also is encouraging. The tandem has continued that trend this offseason, said Wiley, which could solidify their top-two positions.
On occasion, the twosome kept stride with Fisk last fall and sometimes bested her on the course.
Garner was the closest, however, missing a regional qualification for a second straight year by one stroke. At sectional last year, she shot a 94 at Old Oakland Golf Club, losing out to Pendleton Heights’ Claire Patishall (93).
“She works hard at it, and a lot on her own. She is also in the band, so she splits time. Sometimes she’s out there at all hours practicing,” Wiley said. “I think she’s going to be able to handle it being our No. 1. She has the right mindset where it won’t bother her.”
The goal for Garner, from beginning to end, will be cutting into her average and finding that elusive regional appearance, said Wiley. Sometimes not an easy task with a sport as fickle as golf.
“Those last few strokes are always the most difficult to get rid of. I think she can have some really good nights,” Wiley said. “What she needs to do is cut off that top end. She had some days where she was pretty close, but then she had others where she was higher up on the scorer card. It’s about consistently having that number.”
Two newcomers join the squad in sophomore Megan Roberts and junior Zoe Riggs. Wiley would like to see them both challenge his sophomores Genard and Breese to elevate the team’s competitiveness and keep them on track.
“They seem a lot better this year. I’m hoping that translates to the scorecard,” Wiley remarked on the improvement of Genard and Breese. “That would be big in helping us. That’s the goal right now.”