ANDERSON — After a long pressure-filled day under a scorching sun, Annaliese Fox needed a break. Seeking out some shade near the leaderboard at Edgewood Golf Club in Anderson, the New Palestine sophomore grabbed a chair and crunched the numbers.
Shooting a 77 on Saturday — an eight stroke improvement compared to her Lapel Regional performance last year — her score put the Dragons’ No. 1 golfer in position. But it was too early to know for sure.
As more team and individual scores slowly rolled in, Fox milled about the course to find out where she stood.
“My goal was to make it this year, waiting around was eating at me,” Fox said. “I was nervous going into the first hole today. I was nervous all day.”
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With the top five individual golfers without a qualifying team advancing to the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s state finals this week at Prairie View in Carmel, Fox was tied with Bishop Chatard’s Maggie Schaffer for fourth and fifth.
Once the team placements were unofficially finalized with Fishers winning at 305, Columbus North taking second at 306 and Hamilton Southeastern placing third at 306, everything became clear.
Fox could finally exhale and smile, securing the fourth-best score among the tournament’s individual state qualifiers.
“I’m so glad I made it,” she remarked with relief in her voice.
As a freshman, Fox shot an 85 at regional, missing out on the state cut behind the final individual state-qualifier in Mt. Vernon’s Charlie True at 78.
This year, Fox stayed true in her game unlike last fall. In 2016, she won medalist honors at sectional with a 74, but she struggled at regional, adding 11 strokes.
On Saturday, she matched her 2017 sectional total to keep up with the pack. Partly motivated by last year’s setback, Fox used her surroundings to overcome seven bogeys with a pair of birdies and nine pars.
In the same group as regional medalist Morgan Lewis of Fishers, who shot a 66 by sinking six birdies and an eagle put on 18, Fox carried a 41 through the front nine and turned in a 36 to finish 6-over par.
“Just seeing all the putts (Morgan) put in, it was awesome to watch really,” Fox said. “It put a big push on me. It made me want to get into the flow, seeing all these people making putts. I needed to do the same thing.”
Fox bogeyed her first and third hole, but she birdied her last one, which sliced one stroke off her 78 posted on the same course last month during the Lapel Invitational.
“I’m happy for her. It’s great to get (to state) anytime you can,” New Palestine head coach Gregg Greene said. “I know she was upset a year ago. It was nice that she was able to make some putts when she needed to today. She didn’t have her best round, but she was able to recover enough to still score.”
It was bittersweet for Fox, however, once she discovered her teammate, senior Mackenzi Black, wouldn’t be joining her.
A state qualifier as a freshman when the team advanced to state and an individual participant last season, Black shot an 85 to end her career as the team placed seventh with a 351.
“She got no breaks today. If the ball could bounce wrong, it would. She had a lot of putts that lipped out and stopped right before the cup,” Greene said. “She could never recover from a bad hole to get that birdie to offset all of that. It’s golf. Some days the ball drops for you, other days it doesn’t. Today was one of those days for her, but she kept grinding.”
Black was sectional medalist the weekend prior at Old Oakland with a 1-under par 70.
“My putting was awful. I couldn’t get anything to drop. It just wasn’t going my way,” said Black, who will continue her career at IPFW. “It’s really difficult. I really wanted to make it. It was a big goal all year, but I had a bad day and that’s what happens. But I’m really proud of (our accomplishments).”
As a team, the Dragons won their fourth straight sectional team title, captured a third consecutive Hoosier Heritage Conference championship and extended their run as Hancock County champs to four in a row.
“It hurt. When I found out (Mackenzi) didn’t play well today, it hurt. I just want to breakdown and cry for her because knowing that she’s not going to be here next year and us not being able to play golf anymore together,” Fox said while fighting back tears. “It’s just really hard.”
Black’s thoughts steered toward Fox despite the heartache.
“She did great today. She battled back and that’s what it takes,” Black remarked on her teammate’s achievement. “She finished strong. She’s really good.”
Greenfield-Central placed 12th as a team with a 373 as four team shot under 317 and five under 335. The Cougars were led by senior Lindsey McCord, who turned in an 82.
“We played in a very challenging place today with a lot of pressure,” Greene said. “Our score wasn’t good enough to get out, but these scores are crazy low this year. A 317 wasn’t going to get out.”
Lapel Girls Golf Regional
Team scores (top-three advance): Fishers 305, Columbus North 306, Hamilton Southeastern 306, Cathedral 317, Franklin County 335, Noblesville 351, New Palestine 351, Columbus East 354, Richmond 358, Union County 366, Muncie Central 367, Greenfield-Central 373, Delta 375, Bishop Chatard 383, North Central 383, Greensburg 386, Greenwood 391, Wapahani 412.
Medalist: Morgan Lewis, Fishers 66
Individuals advancing without a team: Kristen Hobbs, Lapel 74; Alissa Honigford, Park Tudor 75; Maddie Dittoe, Cathedral 76; Annaliese Fox, New Palestine 77; Maggie Schaffer, Bishop Chatard 77.
Greenfield-Central: Lindsey McCord 82, Caroline Gibson 92, Haley Hoagland 90, Phoenix Breese 119, Rose Gerard 109.
New Palestine: Annaliese Fox 77, Mackenzi Black 85, Izzy Gray 92, Abby Belgin 112, Regina Olson 97.