INDIANAPOLIS — The IHSAA girls’ golf sectional Saturday at Old Oakland Golf Course — also known as the Hancock County Tourney Part II — offered a host of historical highlights:
* Mt. Vernon captured the first team sectional championship in program history.
* Led by individual champ Abby Poole, New Palestine advanced to the team regional for the first time.
* And Hancock County schools filled the top three sectional team spots to mark the first occurrence of three Hancock schools advancing to the regional.
“This is a whole new day for New Palestine girls’ golf,” Dragons’ coach Gregg Greene said of his squad’s inaugural regional qualification.
In effect, however, Saturday was just like another day: August 28. At the nine-hole Hancock County Tourney at Arrowhead three weeks ago, Mt. Vernon (182) won the team title by four strokes over New Palestine (186) with Greenfield-Central (187) in third. Poole, the Dragons’ sophomore ace, was the county individual champ.
At Old Oakland in the seven-team sectional, Mt. Vernon (385), New Palestine (389) and Greenfield-Central (400) registered another 1-2-3 finish to qualify for this Saturday’s regional at Westwood Golf Club in New Castle (the top three sectional teams advance to the regional). And Poole was once again the best player on the course, finishing with a career-best 82 to beat Franklin Central’s Danielle Leverett (86) and Mt. Vernon’s Molly Yee (88).
At the turn, Poole (40) had an advantage over Mt. Vernon’s Ellen Wuerch (43) and Leverett (44), with each girl playing in the same No. 1 group, along with Greenfield-Central’s Ali Kern.
Wuerch found the water on No. 10 and took a 6-over 10 to drop from contention.
On holes 10-13, Poole posted a 4-over 20, while fellow sophomore Leverett parred all four holes to surge into a tie for the championship lead with Poole.
Leverett took a triple-bogey on the par-3 14th, while Poole bogeyed. Poole maintained that two-stroke edge heading into the final three holes, where she put the hammer down with three straight pars to beat Leverett (86) going away.
“She finished like a champion,” Greene said. “She went 5-3-5 on those holes and both of the par-5s are kind of challenging par-5s to finish.”
“I never doubted that she would finish strong, that’s her kind of determination.”
Poole, who fired a 94 on this sectional course last year (one stroke from a regional qualification), believed the key to her winning round Saturday was a steady front nine on Old Oakland’s South course, the tougher of the two nine-hole layouts used Saturday.
“It started off really good,” Poole said. “To get a 40 on the harder nine, that was exciting.
“I did a lot of safe play. I didn’t use my driver on a lot of shots that some of the other girls did. I think it worked for me.”
As the county champ, Poole knew she had a chance to add a sectional medal to her personal collection, but that wasn’t her ultimate goal.
“I thought about it,” she said. “It was more for the team, though. I wanted us to win, but I’m happy with what I did today.
“It feels awesome, I just can’t wait for regionals.”
Just as at county, the Marauders were the deepest, most consistent foursome in action Saturday.
Molly Yee posted a third-place 44-44—88 to help make up for Wuerch’s glitch on No. 10. Wuerch signed for a 92, still good enough for fourth overall on the day.
Hannah Yee (100) and Bailey Fleming (105) completed the Mt. Vernon scoring, with Briley Willis adding a 112. (The top four individual scores count toward the team score).
The Marauders have advanced to the regional previously as a team with top-three sectional finishes. But they’ve never ended the first weekend of the state tournament with a trophy, until now.
“I think the goal was probably just to do our best and come out and play like we have been all season,” Molly Yee said. “We can all count on each other to do well during the matches to accomplish our goals.”
Through nine holes on its home course, Mt. Vernon had a 187-192 edge on New Palestine, but the Dragons’ top four players gained five strokes on the Marauders on No. 10 to temporarily even the match.
“We had a little bit of a cushion going into that side, and we had the same situation happen the other night,” MV coach Caleb Zelencik said of a recent regular season match.
“(Wuerch) hit two into the water on that hole and her teammates picked her up and played well, and I was just confident that they were going to do the same thing tonight. These girls have a tendency not to get down, they just keep plugging. And they did today, they just kept plugging.”
Beech Grove (424), Shelbyville (446), Eastern Hancock (500) and Franklin Central (incomplete) rounded out the sectional field, never truly in contention for a top-three finish.
Zelencik wasn’t surprised the sectional was a battle between the three local groups.
“I was thinking the coin had to flip the right way for us, because I knew Greenfield was going to come in and be competitive and I knew New Pal was going to be competitive,” he said.
“I thought for sure if we got under 390 that would give us a chance. And luckily we were a few less than that because New Pal was 389, so it worked out well.”
New Palestine advanced with the help of Cassie Rooks (94), Bailey Kamp (102) and Sarah Rose (111). The Cougars were led by Makenzie Fisk (97), Kern (98), Nicole Morley (100) and Jordan Dicken (105).
Rachel Boaz (114) and Breanna Jones (116) were the top Eastern Hancock finishers.
Greenfield-Central was the defending sectional champ; its title last year was the ninth in program history.
Zelencik hopes that the Marauders can add to their trophy case in similar fashion.
“We’ve been there as a team in the past (with top-three sectional finishes) and we’ve been able to send individuals to regionals, but I want this to be a regular thing and I want the girls to want it to be a regular thing,” Zelencik said.
Along with their county and sectional titles, the Marauders finished second to No. 1-ranked Yorktown in the Hoosier Heritage Conference tourney, accomplishing all three team goals the black-and-gold laid out in the preseason.
The key now for the Marauders becomes making sure their competitive fire continues to burn on Saturday in the regional.
“I just told them Saturday isn’t just about the experience,” Zelencik said. “We want to go make noise and we want to represent and let everybody know Mt. Vernon’s there and we’re hopefully on the scene.
“We want to be a team that people include year-in, year-out when they’re talking about some of the best teams in the area.”
Notes: The New Castle Regional at Westwood will include regional qualifiers from the Anderson, Greensburg, Lawrence Central, Mt. Vernon, Muncie Southside and Richmond sectionals. Play begins at 8 a.m. ... The top three teams and top five individuals from non-advancing teams will qualify for the state finals. … Leverett, Shelbyville’s Katie Rumple (93) and Franklin Central’s Grace Phillippe (98) earned the three individual regional qualifying spots Saturday at Old Oakland.