INDIANAPOLIS — Hannah Yee cried at the start of the day. Ellen Wuerch shed a few tears at the end. In between, Abby Poole’s emotions were limited to a cool focus.
The girls golf sectional at Old Oakland Golf Course had its share of drama on Saturday, but the final results mirrored those of a year ago when the Marauders led by Wuerch and Yee won the team title and Poole, the New Palestine ace, won the individual championship.
Saturday, Mt. Vernon was off the pace in the early action. After nine holes in the 18-hole tourney, the Marauders’ four best players posted a collective 184, tied with Whiteland in trailing Greenwood (176) and Pendleton Heights (181).
Only the top three teams qualified for the regional.
“With us being eight shots back and in fourth, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” MV coach Caleb Zelencik said. “We improved on the back nine, everyone else fell off.
“Their attitudes have been so great this year. None of them have a single ounce of quit in them. When they do face some adversity, I’ve preached ‘Dig your heels in and fight a little harder.’ And they all really did that today. They all fought.”
The Marauders completed their sectional-defense comeback with a final team score of 366 to edge Whiteland (370) and Greenwood (372). Pendleton Heights (377), New Palestine (379) and Greenfield-Central (411) were among the squads that missed out on a team regional spot, although each of those teams put an individual golfer in the regional, this Saturday in New Castle.
Sophomore Molly Yee led the champs with an 84, while seniors Wuerch (86) and Hannah Yee (90) and junior Bailey Fleming (106) completed the MV scoring.
In addition to a regional qualification for the top three teams, the top three players from non-advancing units earned a spot in the regional. And for the second straight year, Poole resoundingly wrapped up her berth with a sectional title.
Last year on this same course as a sophomore, Poole carded an 82 to win her first sectional by four strokes. This year’s honor wasn’t decided until the sun was nearly set.
Poole and Pendleton Heights’ Emily Tilton were tied at 75 heading into the East Course No. 9 hole, their final hole of the day after starting on the South Course. Poole shot par-5, while Tilton took bogey and finished sectional runner-up.
“I knew we were tied (after 17),” Poole said. “I think I just really concentrated on every shot. I didn’t let myself make a silly mistake that would cost me a stroke. So I just played my game and it worked out.”
Poole had a one-stroke lead on Tilton at the turn, then surrendered three total strokes on their 10th and 11th holes to fall behind by two.
Undaunted, Poole made up the deficit over their next two holes, and they remained tied until 18.
“I’ve just always been that way,” Poole explained. “It doesn’t really bother me when I have a bad hole. I can get up and just act like it never happened.”
Zelencik is more than familiar with the composed golf game of Poole, a two-time Hancock County — and now sectional — champion.
In the final sectional tune-up match for the Marauders and Dragons on Thursday, Poole won the nine-hole battle with a 42 despite a rare struggle.
“She had a 10 on a hole in our match on and it didn’t faze her,” Zelencik said. “She came right back on the next hole and she got a par. She’s just Steady Eddie out there on the golf course.
“Everything about her is positive. She’s a great kid … a positive attitude and her golf game is phenomenal.”
Poole and Tilton will be joined by Greenfield-Central’s Makenzie Fisk as teamless golfers at the regional. Fisk earned the third and final individual spot out of the sectional by defeating Shelbyville’s Katie Rumple on the first hole of a sudden death playoff after each duffer finished 18 with 88.
Megan Garner (99) had the second-best score for the Cougars behind Fisk. New Palestine’s Cassie Rooks (98) and Sarah Rose (98) also broke 100. Eastern Hancock, which finished in ninth with a 484, was led by Macy Fout (116) and Rachel Boaz (119).
At the 2012 regional, Poole fired an 85 and missed making it to the State Finals by three strokes, while Tilton qualified for state with an 80. Fisk carded a 92 last year as a freshman at regional.
Mt. Vernon took 13th at the regional last season with a 409.
“I think we’re past the days of just going over to compete and just be there,” Zelencik said. “We didn’t have a very good showing last year.
“We’re going to improve on what we did last year and hopefully shatter what we did last year. I know these girls are really driven and motivated to improve on that, and they want to represent themselves and Mt. Vernon golf in a good way.”
For much of Saturday’s round, which began at 12:30 p.m. and didn’t finish until the Fisk-Rumple playoff concluded after 7 p.m., MV’s spot in the team regional was in doubt. The Marauders, including Wuerch and Yee, were genuinely relieved when the final standings were announced.
Part of day-long trepidation centered on the sectional’s new competition. Last year, this sectional field was essentially a glorified county tourney. The seven-team field included Mt. Vernon, New Palestine, Greenfield-Central, Eastern Hancock and non-Hancock schools Beech Grove, Shelbyville and Franklin Central. MV (385), NP (389) and G-C (400) took the top spots with ease; fourth-place Beech Grove was far back at 434.
But Whiteland, Greenwood and Pendleton Heights were added to what became a 10-team sectional for 2013.
“We’ve never played either of those teams, so we didn’t know what to expect,” Wuerch said of Whiteland and Greenwood.
“I think we were expecting to advance, but we were not expecting to be on top of everybody.”
As part of motivating everyone for the challenge, Wuerch had an early-morning message for her teammates.
“She sent a group text this morning about praying and stuff, and it was really emotional,” said Hannah Yee, explaining her first-tee emotion. “And I started crying then and I just couldn’t stop.”
Yee was able to smile and laugh about the early waterworks after the Marauders’ victory.
“It was just to get our team psyched,” Wuerch, who fought off tears until her final hole was complete, said of the encouraging text. “Because it’s all mental. If we’re playing bad, it doesn’t matter, because our minds are in it and we’re focused. We can still come out on top, and we did.”
The New Castle Regional at Westwood Golf Course will begin at 10 a.m. The top three teams and top five individuals from non-advancing teams will qualify for the State Finals, Oct. 4-5 at The Legends in Franklin.
“I definitely have confidence (heading to regional),” Poole said. “My grandparents live right next to Westwood, so I go up there all the time. I’m really familiar with the course.
“I hope that I can just keep it cool and play my game.”
>> Mt. Vernon Girls Golf Sectional at Old Oakland GC, Indianapolis, Saturday. Top three teams plus top three individual from non-advancing teams qualify for regional.
Mt. Vernon 366, Whiteland 370, Greenwood 372, Pendleton Heights 377, New Palestine 379, Shelbyville 411, Greenfield-Central 411, Knightstown 471, Eastern Hancock 484, Triton Central 611.
Abby Poole* (NP) 80, Emily Tilton* (PH) 81, Alexa West (WH) 83, Molly Yee (MV) 84, Ellen Wuerch (MV) 86, Makenzie Fisk* (GC) 88, Katie Rumple (SH) 88.
*—Advanced to regional individually. Fisk beat Rumple on first hole of sudden death playoff to advance.
>> New Castle Regional at Westwood GC, New Castle, Saturday, 10 a.m.
Feeder sectionals: Anderson, Greensburg, Lawrence Central, Mt. Vernon, Muncie Southside, Richmond.
Advancement to State Finals: Top three teams; top five low individuals excluding those individuals who advance with a team. Ties for 5th place must be played off in order to advance.