NEW PALESTINE — On a day when the scores were a little higher than usual it was nice to be on familiar grounds.
On its home course, The Links Golf Club, New Palestine won the girls golf sectional for the second straight year, carding a team score of 357 in a 10-team field Monday.
The top three teams advanced to Saturday’s Lapel Regional at The Edge Golf Club in Anderson.
Runner-up Mt. Vernon (376) and third-place Rushville (411) will be joining the Dragons in Anderson, along with the top three individuals not associated with the three qualifying teams.
Greenfield-Central’s Ella Neill, who shot a 98, will be competing Saturday as an individual along with Shenandoah’s Madelyn Shelton (93) and Triton Central’s Jaylee Davis (108).
New Palestine came in as the tournament favorite, but that had nothing to do with the location of the tournament. The Dragons have shot a season-low 347 three times this year and recently shot a nine-hole round of 155 in a dual meet.
The tough course made for higher scores, but the Dragons were still the class of the field as they had shown in other big tournaments earlier this season. The Dragons won the Hoosier Heritage Conference meet, in Albany, on Sept. 9 and the Hancock County meet, in Greenfield, on Aug. 29.
On Monday, they adjusted to cooler temperatures and damp grounds from early morning tee times, and other intricacies of the difficult course.
“It was nice to know when not to hit a certain club or in certain situations to know how to get out of (trouble) easily,” New Palestine’s Katie Kelley said of playing the sectional tournament at The Links.
Kelley was the individual medalist with a round of 87. Three other players, her teammates Lauren Deering and Hanna Beller and Mt. Vernon’s Izzy VanHeel finished tied for second with 89s. They were the only golfers to shoot under 90.
The course was difficult for everyone. Only 12 of the 40 golfers broke 100.
“The pin placements, and the greens, ugh! That’s the only thing that we really struggled on,” Kelley added.
“(The scores) were a little bit higher today and I think that was indicative of the conditions,” New Palestine head coach Sarah O’Brien said. “Everybody struggled. It wasn’t just one or two of the girls. They were all a little frustrated, mostly with putting. We keep track of our putts and I think they averaged four or five more putts than normal today. I think they were frustrated by that, but overall they hung in there and never gave up which is what we always talk about.
“It’s not an easy course to begin with.”
New Palestine’s 2022 title was the team’s first since 2018.
Kelley is New Palestine’s first individual champion since Annaliese Fox won the event in 2019.
“It’s absolutely amazing. I’m ecstatic, so happy,” Kelley said. “We wanted to win as a team, to win as an individual is an extra bonus.”
The sectional tournament had been held at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield the last two years. This is the first time it has been at The Links since 2020.
Nine of the 12 players that shot under 100 were from New Palestine and Mt. Vernon.
For the Dragons, Lauren Appleby’s 92 tied for fifth place. Lily Kirchner finished with a 95 to tie for eighth.
“It feels really good (to win the sectional). I know they’re not super-happy with their scores, but I think they need to realize they really did play well today, considering,” O’Brien added. “I’m really pleased, happy and proud of them. We’ll start looking ahead to Saturday and getting ready for that. They know that course pretty well.”
Following VanHeel for the Marauders, Natalie Miner and Gillian Avers joined Kirchner in the three-way tie for eighth with 95s. Kylie Hyde finished 11th with a 97.
“I’m proud of them. If you would have told us we would shoot less than 380 at the beginning of the year here, I’d be very happy,” Mt. Vernon coach Mike Miner said. “But, I’ve seen such good improvement this year, (the score is) a little disappointing. You know they can do still better.”
Neill’s score was 12th overall. Greenfield-Central finished sixth as a team with a 463. Eastern Hancock was seventh with a 507.
Emily Hodges shot a 120 and had the low round for the Royals.
2023 New Palestine Girls Golf Sectional
Team scores (top 3 advance to Lapel Regional): New Palestine 357, Mt. Vernon 376, Rushville 411, Shenandoah 440, Triton Central 452, Greenfield-Central 463, Eastern Hancock 507, Morristown inc., Tri inc., Knightstown inc.
Top 10 individuals: Katie Kelley, New Palestine, 87; Hanna Beller, New Palestine, 89; Lauren Deering, New Palestine, 89, Izzy VanHeel, Mt. Vernon, 89; Lauren Appleby, New Palestine, 92; Emma Tressler, Rushville, 92; Madelyn Shelton, Shenandoah 93; Gillian Avers, Mt. Vernon, 95; Lily Kirchner, New Palestine, 95; Natalie Miner, Mt. Vernon, 95.
Top 3 individuals (not associated w/top 3 teams advance to Lapel Regional): Shelton, Shenandoah, 93; Ella Neill, Greenfield-Central, 98; Jaylee Davis, Triton Central, 108.