FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon junior golfer Izzy VanHeel has made great improvements in her game.

She has gone from being the team’s No. 5 golfer as a freshman to the No. 1 golfer as a sophomore.

From her sophomore to junior year, she has continued playing at No. 1, but her average is much lower and she earned a championship by winning the Hancock County Tournament.

VanHeel said the biggest change to her game has been to quit keeping score.

Well, not completely.

She’s still keeping it on her scorecard, but she’s just not looking at it during and after every hole.

“The main thing that helped me was I changed my attitude a lot,” the Daily Reporter Hancock County Girls Golf Athlete of the Year said. “I stopped worrying so much about the bad of my game and just played the round like I was playing it.

“Last year, I got so upset over every little shot. This year, I changed my mindset from, ‘you have to win’ to ‘just hit the next shot.’ I stopped worrying about having a couple of bad shots when the rest of the shots weren’t horrible.”

Mt. Vernon head coach Mike Miner agreed, but adds that VanHeel playing in a lot of spring and summer tournaments has helped her game and confidence.

“You could tell she was a different player when she came back from playing in those events,” Miner said. “She had a different level of confidence. It shows that the more of those events you play in the more at ease you get with playing in those type of tournaments, playing with other people, playing in front of people. It really paid off for her.”

Her nine-hole averaged improved from 45 strokes to 40. VanHeel’s 18-hole average has gone down from 93 to 87, and Miner adds, it could have been a lot better if not for a couple of rough rounds in the 90s.

“She’s really put in the work and has wanted to get better,” Miner said. “She was one of those athletes that decided she was going to put in the extra work and take the time to do it and it has showed.”

He added that he has a lot of respect for VanHeeloff the course, too, noting how she is always in attendance and has a great attitude in a lot of the team’s and school’s off-the-course functions.

“I have come to respect her as much what she does off the course than on,” the coach said. “She’s involved with her church, every team activity, like (Mt. Vernon High School’s) Track or Treat. She always shows up for the extra stuff with a good attitude.”

Her on the course activities have been really good this season, too.

VanHeel shot a 40 to win the nine-hole county meet, held at Hawk’s Tail of Greenfield, by one stroke.

She had the best finish of any county golfer at the Hoosier Heritage Conference tournament in Albany with a career-best round of 80, placing third overall.

She finished in a three-way tie for second place at the New Palestine Sectional and had the second best score of county golfers at the regional with a round of 83.

A lot of the credit to playing well in the bigger tournaments has gone to the change of attitude.

“She doesn’t put more emphasis (on the big tournaments). She tries not to make it a bigger deal than it is, and I think that helps her,” Miner said.

In particular at the conference championship, VanHeel said she had the right mindset.

She was playing with two good friends, Delta’s Belle Brown (who finished second) and New Palestine’s Katie Kelley (who finished fourth).

VanHeel said it was a fun atmosphere for all three and she didn’t look at her scorecard until the end of the round. She shot a career-low 80 to place third.

“We all said we’d never had more fun playing a round,” VanHeel said. “I wasn’t nervous and they were great to play with. … I didn’t worry about everything so much, and I didn’t count my score. Last year, I would have looked at my card and thought, ‘now you’re doing bad.’ I didn’t look at the scorecard as much as I could. I was pretty impressed with myself, that was the day I shot 80.”

VanHeel said she wants to continue improving her game as she heads into her final high school season next year.

She has aspirations to play collegiately and to continue to break those scoring milestones, even if she doesn’t look at her score until after the round.

“I think it depends on the person, if they count or not,” VanHeel said. “It really does help, for me at least, that I didn’t count while I was playing. It puts a lot less stress on me and I wasn’t worried about having to shoot a certain score on the next hole.”

2023 Daily Reporter All-Hancock County Girls Golf Team

Player of the Year: Izzy VanHeel, Mt. Vernon

Coach of the Year: Sarah O’Brien, New Palestine

First Team

Player, School

Hanna Beller, New Palestine

Lauren Deering, New Palestine

Katie Kelley, New Palestine

Lily Kirchner, New Palestine

Izzy VanHeel, Mt. Vernon

Second Team

Player, School

Lauren Appleby, New Palestine

Gigi Avers, Mt. Vernon

Kylie Hyde, Mt. Vernon

Natalie Miner, Mt. Vernon

Ella Neill, Greenfield-Central