LAWRENCE — The ball slowly trickled down the green putting surface. Approximately 35 feet away, Annaliese Fox stood dead still in anticipation as the tension began to build with each roll.
Looping around the hole before eventually falling, Fox could finally smile. She ended the day the way she started — with a birdie — in her first postseason tournament of her high school career.
It was just that kind of day for the Dragons freshman. Fox would finish with a 74 on Monday at the Old Oakland Golf Course to earn the sectional championship — her third title this season.
Fox won the Hoosier Heritage Conference meet last week in New Castle and also took first in the Hancock County championship earlier this season.
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“This course was more of a mental game to understand what you are supposed to do,” Fox said in comparison to last week’s course. “I was pretty happy with myself for not knowing half the course. Maybe one in 10 are close to the same.”
Even more impressive, Fox tallied the aforementioned score on the two hardest portions of Old Oakland — the West and South nines. No golfer on Monday had any prior experience on the West side, which caused all sorts of problems for most, especially a massive par five on hole No. 7.
The course was once used for the state finals.
New Palestine earned the team championship (349), as well, for the third straight year and completed the season trifecta after conference and county titles.
Pendleton Heights was second with 373 on Monday, while Greenfield-Central edged Greenwood by a stroke for the final spot with a 412. All three advance to this Saturday’s regional in Anderson.
“We were better than last year and not far off the 341 we shot two years ago,” New Palestine head coach Gregg Greene said. “This week we are just going to fine tune our games and be mentally prepared for the grind that Saturday will be.
“Everybody was caught off guard with the West nine. (Annaliese’s) round, with her length off the tee, she has different options than others. She just managed the entire round and tried to play smart.”
Junior veteran Mackenzi Black, despite a foot injury, carded a solid 85 on Monday. She was in a walking boot after the meet. Also for the Dragons, senior Cassidy Harp totaled a 94 while classmate Payton Hill ended with a 96.
Mt. Vernon’s Charley True, who won the event last season as a freshman with the same score (74), has played with Fox on the Indiana Golf Junior National Tour during the summer and also advanced after a round of 89 on Monday. However, she missed conference last week due to an illness and was clearly not up to speed.
With an 11th-place finish at state last season under her belt, True will surely rebound.
“She is a really talented player,” Fox said.
The Marauders received a nice round from Katie Davis (98), while Ava Hampton finished with a 126. Savannah McKemie (136) rounded out the team’s scoring.
Last weekend at conference, Fox made a habit consistently hitting the putting greens on her approach shots. She did it again on Monday and credits her impressive short game to her swing coach, Lucas Banks, who works at Heartland Crossing Golf Course in Camby.
“It makes it a lot easier, my goal is to hit more greens than fairways,” Fox said. “The green is your scoring place. And I try for nothing more than a two-putt.”
She would finish with just one three-putt on the afternoon.
“It was different, going out and birdying the first hole,” Fox said. “It made me more confident and motivated.”
Megan Garner led Greenfield-Central with a 91 after shooting a 94 last season. Also for the Cougars, who lost their No. 1 golfer last year, Lindsey McCord carded a 98. Amanda Edwards scored a 102 while Phoenix Breese ended with a 121 to help Greenfield-Central earn a trip to Anderson.
“A lot of what we talked about was keeping the ball in play today,” Cougars head coach Russ Wiley said. “Maybe just taking the shorter club off the tee. The course just plays different.
“Lindsey McCord has been consistent this year.”
Eastern Hancock dramatically improved its score from a season ago (535) and posted a 478 on Monday. Abby Fout and Emiley Carlton finished their final meet with rounds of 112 and 121, respectively.
If not for Fout, who was the team’s No. 1 golfer this year, the Royals may not have had a golf team this season and last. With program numbers low her junior season, Fout took it upon herself to recruit. This season, Eastern Hancock had five girls on the squad.
Lucy Cochard, the team’s No. 4 player, shot a 116 while Alexis Young finished with a 125. Lucia Alberione finished with a 159.
The Anderson Regional will be played at Edgewood Golf Course on Saturday.
Top 5 Individuals
1. Annaliese Fox, New Palestine – 74
2. Mackenzi Black, New Palestine – 85
2. Jessie Meyer, Pendleton Heights – 85
4. Charley True, Mt. Vernon – 89*
5. Megan Garner, Greenfield-Central – 91
*Advancing without a team
New Palestine – 349
Pendleton Heights – 373
Greenfield-Central – 412
Greenwood – 413
Shelbyville – 419
Mt. Vernon – 443
Knightstown – 454
Eastern Hancock – 478
Southwestern – 499
Greenwood Christian – 521
Triton Central – 572