GREENFIELD — After nearly 10 years of coaching, Greenfield-Central’s Russ Wiley has learned to temper expectations.
Some years, his girls golf teams have stormed out to strong starts only to fade late. Other times, the Cougars have gone from start to finish in search of consistency.
Last year, the season unveiled a different path, one that propelled the team to the Lapel Regional after a third-place performance at the Mt. Vernon Sectional with a team score of 412.
Placing just behind Hoosier Heritage Conference rivals Pendleton Heights (373) and New Palestine (349) in the sectional standings, the Cougars found their rhythm when it matter most.
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“I didn’t think at the end of the year we had a chance to get out of the sectional, but we ended up doing it,” Wiley said. “We kind of peaked at the right time last year. We really weren’t that great for part of the season, but we played well more towards the end of the year.
“It would be nice to be a little bit more consistent in that sense this year, winning more matches.”
With four-year varsity starter Lindsey McCord, a senior, returning along with juniors Phoenix Breese and Rose Gerard, the Cougars enter the 2017 season more experienced and confident in their abilities.
“I’m hoping we’ll be as good as we were and then with however better Rose and Phoenix can be that will be our improvement at the top,” Wiley said.
McCord, who also is a No. 1 singles player on the girls tennis team, will be the unquestioned No. 1 golfer in the Cougars lineup this year, Wiley said. As a junior, McCord proved more than capable, often keeping pace with graduated seniors Megan Garner and Amanda Edwards on the leader board.
McCord earned All-Hancock County honors in 2016 with a nine-hole score of 41 at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield. Garner fired a 44 as the Cougars secured a third-place team finish.
At the HHC meet, McCord was named all-conference honorable mention with a 12th-place, shooting a 96 — two spots behind Garner while the team was sixth. Garner led the Cougars at sectional with a top-five score of 91, but McCord wasn’t far behind at 98.
“That’s a big part of being older and having been around and done it,” Wiley remarked on McCord’s improvement late last season. “This year, she will be called on to help explain things and being more of a leader by letting other people know what to expect. Really even more than that because Rose and Phoenix didn’t play varsity until last year. They’re still kind of new at it in that sense.”
The Cougars will insert a pair of talented freshmen into the varsity lineup to offset the loss of both Garner and Edwards in Caroline Gibson and Haylee Hoagland.
The newcomers could help sooner rather than later in a program that surged ahead with a win against rival Mt. Vernon and Warren Central just prior to the 2016 postseason before shooting a 418 at regional.
“The two freshmen are pretty solid. They both played in junior high, so they’ve been around the game for a little while,” Wiley said. “They’re definitely going to help us. The two freshmen are pretty comparable to the scores the two seniors from last year had more toward the end of the year.”
Consistency, Wiley said, will come from confidence as the season picks up, beginning with a triangular match with Columbus East and Whiteland today at Otter Creek. Greenfield-Central heads to Greensburg Country Club on Saturday for a tournament.
“Golf is kind of weird that way. I’ve had seasons that were the complete opposite of last year,” Wiley said. “If I had to pick I’d rather wait until the end to peak, but it is nice to win matches and have some consistency. It makes everyone more energetic and confident.
“Sometimes it’s just a bad day for people, and sometimes those people having a bad day are all on your team. We’re hoping to avoid bad days.”