Making the List: Marauders capture first golf sectional title in eight years

Mt. Vernon's Alaina Nugent watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during the New Palestine girls golf sectional at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield Golf Course on Monday, Sept. 19, 2021. (Rob Baker/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Nothing was going to dampen the Mt. Vernon girls golf team’s mood on Monday during the New Palestine Sectional.

Not the rain. Not the threat of more storms on the horizon. Not the steady wind gusts nor the soggy and muddy conditions throughout the course at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield.

All the Marauders’ senior leaders could think of was a whiteboard, and the annoying absence of the team’s presence on it.

“That was my frustration. At the end of the year (2020-21), my friend and I were writing down all our (school’s) sectional team titles on a whiteboard and just looking at it, I was like, ‘Why are we not on there?,'” Mt. Vernon senior golfer Alaina Nugent recalled. “I said, ‘We’re getting on there next year. We’re going to be the first one. We’re starting it off.'”

In 2020-21, Mt. Vernon High School captured 12 sectional team titles overall, including a clean sweep in the spring, but the Marauders girls golf team had to settle for second behind Greenfield-Central last fall.

At the time, the Marauders didn’t think much of the shortcoming, still advancing to the team regional with a score of 366 as the Cougars tallied a 340 for the sectional championship en route to an eventual IHSAA golf state finals appearance.

However, as other Marauders’ sports teams accumulated sectional trophies over the next nine months, the golfers’ motivation mounted.

“We were one of three sports, I think, that didn’t win a sectional title last year, and it was really devastating,” Mt. Vernon senior Meredith Johnson said. “This year, we’re starting off strong, and we’re hoping all the other sports follow.”

The Marauders didn’t just set the pace during Monday’s sectional, they turned in their best performance of the season, shooting an 18-hole team score of 339, which bested defending champion Greenfield-Central by 45 strokes.

The Cougars took second at 384 while New Palestine was third at 387. All three teams advanced to Saturday’s Lapel Regional at Edgewood Golf Club with each sectional site’s top-three teams and top-three, low individuals, not on an advancing team, moving on.

“They just played to the level they can play to, and they just try to keep getting better every day. That’s all,” Mt. Vernon head coach Mike Miner said. “They deserve it. They’ve been working hard. It’s pretty cool to have the top-two individuals, too.”

Nugent shot a 2-over-par 75 to earn sectional medalist honors, which secured the season trifecta for the Marauders’ No. 1 golfer.

During the Hancock County Tournament last month, Nugent finished first with a 1-over-par 37 on the same course to help the Marauders end Greenfield-Central’s three-year team title run.

Nugent was also the Hoosier Heritage Conference’s individual champion last week at Albany Golf Club, carding a 79, which anchored the Marauders’ score of 351 and their first league title since 2003 with a 25-stroke victory.

“It’s really amazing. I feel like I didn’t even play my best today, and there was still kind of a good gap between us and the others, and I think there’s still more that I can do to push forward at regional,” Nugent said.

“I started off really rough in the beginning. My putting was a little bit off, but then as soon as I made a 30-foot putt, I automatically turned it on and I was hitting everything great. I just finished strong.”

Johnson was second overall with a 5-over-par 78, placing ahead of Greenwood’s Maura Guilfoy (80), Greenfield-Central’s Sydnie Wherry (85) and Mt. Vernon’s Sophie Amegnigan (88).

Guilfoy, Shelbyville’s Regan Mathies (94) and Greenwood’s Emma Baker (95) each advanced to regional as individuals.

Johnson was fourth during the HHC tournament at 85 — for second best on the team — and fired a 40 at county to take runner-up honors after back-to-back third-place finales.

“This is amazing. We’ve been working all four years for this, and it wasn’t a single person. It was a team. We all worked so hard for this, and it’s so rewarding to do it. It’s just a big deal and I’m so excited to celebrate it,” Johnson said.

“It’s very rare for teams to be able to pull off all three (county, conference, sectional), and I really think that our team worked really hard for it. We’ve had days where one of us would fall and the other one would come through and pick us up and vice versa. That’s really what it means to be a team, and I really appreciate them for that because this is my family.”

Fellow senior Mackenzie Miner shot a 98 and Isabel VanHeel provided a 107.

The Marauders’ trio of sub-90 scores echoed the team’s determination from a year ago when Nugent shot an 84, Johnson came in at 94, Miner shot a 96 and graduated senior Emily Rollo carded a 92.

“The last couple of years, they’ve had a shot at it, if they would have played their best, but they didn’t quite get it,” Miner said. “I’m glad to see them do it this year.”

The last time Mt. Vernon won a girls golf sectional title, the program repeated, claiming the championship in both 2012 and 2013.

“This is huge. This is so exciting. Finally having a team that I can put on the board. In the high school, there are boards of sectional wins, and the only thing for girls golf is 2012 and 2013,” Nugent said. “I’ve been waiting for our time to put 2021-22 on there.”

Greenfield-Central edged past New Palestine with three sub-100 totals behind Wherry, Katie Curry (95) and Brynn Elliott (95). Abigail Mulligan and Ella Neil shot 109 and 112, respectively.

New Palestine was led by Zoe Nelson’s 92, followed by Hannah Beller’s 97, Lauren Appleby’s 98, Kate Stanfield’s 100 and Janie Hamilton’s 107.

Eastern Hancock was sixth at 469. Shelby Jackson led the Royals with a 98.

Prior to sectional, the Marauders posted a 349 for third at the Trojan Classic Invitational, hosted by Center Grove last month, and recorded a 358 for fifth at the Franklin Invitational. Mt. Vernon also won the New Palestine Invitational in August with a team score of 344.

“I feel like we’ve had a lot of motivation through the years, especially with a lot of good competition, but I felt this year was our year to come out on top,” Johnson said. “And, we did it. We’re so happy.”

They’re not content, though.

No Mt. Vernon girls golf team has ever reached the state finals collectively, and the seniors want to be the first group to achieve the feat.

“We’re serious all the way through. A couple of us want to get to state, and we’re getting to state. Whatever it takes,” Nugent said.

“We are going. We are working hard. We want to make it to state as a team. That’s our end goal, especially the seniors. We want to make it out,” Johnson added.

In 2020, Mt. Vernon was ninth at regional with a 375. Noblesville won the tournament with a 314, while Greenfield-Central advanced to state with a 345.

“This gives us confidence that maybe we can get out. We just have to play as good as we can play,” Miner said. “I keep telling them. You don’t have to do anything special. Just play the way you’ve always been playing and we’ll just see what happens. If they just keep shooting the way they’ve been shooting, they’ll do fine. Just don’t let the moment get too big.”

2021 New Palestine Girls Golf Sectional

Team Scores: Mt. Vernon 339, Greenfield-Central 384, New Palestine 387, Greenwood 400, Shelbyville 422, Eastern Hancock 469, Southwestern 472, Greenwood Christian Academy 488, Morristown 519, Knightstown 536, Triton Central (no score).

Top-three teams advance to regional

Top-three low individuals (non-advancing team): Maura Guilfoy, Greenwood (80), Regan Mathies, Shelbyville (94), Emma Baker, Greenwood (95).

Individual Scores

Eastern Hancock: Shelby Jackson 98, Inez Friddle 125, Abby Bolding 120, Emily Grant 126.

Greenfield-Central: Sydnie Wherry 85, Katie Curry 95, Brynn Elliott 95, Abigail Mulligan 109, Ella Neill 112.

New Palestine: Zoe Nelson 92, Kate Stanfield 100, Lauren Appleby 98, Hannah Beller 97, Janie Hamilton 107.

Mt. Vernon: Alaina Nugent 75, Meredith Johnson 78, Mackenzie Miner 98, Sophie Amegnigan 88, Isabel VanHeel 107.