WINONA LAKE – It’s a lost art in sports. Many think sports should revolve around who wins, and go from there. In some cases, hoisting a sectional trophy is an end-all. In other cases, just living to see another day is a win all in its own.
It is good to be king. In the case of Rochester, the team could not have been happier at the Warsaw Girls Golf Sectional held Saturday at Stonehenge Country Club. Posting a 349, the Zebras claimed its first-ever girls golf sectional title and had Kovenant Lingenfelter playing area dynamo Heidi Morganthaler of NorthWood for medalist honors after both shot rounds of 76 on the windswept rolling hills of Stonehenge.
Morganthaler would do what she has so often this season, make the difficult look easy. In the playoff on the 18th hole, Morganthaler fired her second shot from over 200 yards out onto the green, then bested Lingenfelter one-up for medalist honors. The result capped a 351 performance from the Panthers as runner-up in the tournament, and Warsaw gladly joined the pair of teams with its 369 as the third team to advance. NorthWood was seeking its first sectional title and the win by Rochester broke up Warsaw’s bid for a third consecutive sectional title and fifth in six years.
It wasn’t exactly what they wanted, but Warsaw head coach Chris LaLonde will surely take it.
“Sure, I would have loved to win, but I think we are still on the same level with the other two teams,” LaLonde said. “We just didn’t have the best of days today. We’ll be in there next weekend.”
Warsaw had a 79 from Nikki LaLonde, which was third-best of all the scores Saturday. LaLonde gave away just four strokes on either side all day and only had one double bogey the entire round. Elizabeth Meadows and Alexis Manwaring were both equally consistent, shooting identical 89s to give Warsaw its power at the top. Kristen Watson recovered from a disastrous first three holes to settle into a 112 overall score. Madi Graham continued to learn on the job, shooting a 118 in her first sectional as a freshman.
Also making the list of happy golfers leaving Stonehenge were a pair of aces from Wawasee and an overjoyed number one from Triton.
Wawasee’s tandem of Elizabeth Jackson and Mikala Mawhorter extended their golf seasons at least one more round of 18 with advancing individual scores. Jackson avoided the big holes with the exception of a nine on 15 – the hole that gobbled up most everyone Saturday – but birdied two, three and seven on the front side to shoot an 87. Mawhorter struggled on the front side, shooting a 49, but rallied with a 41 on the back nine playing bogey or better on eight of the nine holes for a 90 and the third golden ticket.
Wawasee’s team finished fourth at 387, taking the 87 and 90 plus a 102 from Kamryn Foy and 108 from Kylee Rostochak to comprise its four scores. Foy, who golfed with Wawasee’s varsity in just three matches this year before Saturday, went 51 on both sides while Rostochak shaved 10 strokes off her front nine score to go 59-49 on her day.
“This is the second year in a row that was have finished one place out of advancing, and that’s a little frustrating,” said Wawasee head coach Steve Coverstone. “We lost last year on a tiebreaker. But we are really young and getting experienced. We get everyone back next year, and I hope they use today as a springboard for next year. We had a great year this year, finishing third in the conference, we just didn’t put it all together today. The really big holes today hurt us.”
Triton hoped to move up the depth chart a little bit, knowing it was far behind in talent to the likes of Rochester, NorthWood and Warsaw. Aiming to move up the list, Triton were able to finish eighth at 427, but had reason to celebrate as number one Hannah Jennings shot an 89 to advance as an individual. Jennings had a couple stinkers on her first nine, tripling 11 and 15, but also had three pars to rescue a 45 and then settled into a 44 on the back nine, landing the 89 on the board that stood up.
Lizzy Erne fired a 96, Lillie Berger a 119, Kayla Kreft a 123 and Courtney Zentz a 147, leaving Triton two strokes behind Columbia City and 11 off of Bremen’s pace, one which Triton head coach Jack Carpenter had hoped to catch.
“I was very pleased with Hannah, she is the one girls who really works at it,” Carpenter said. “She is the only one who plays in the summertime. She plays the junior tour, plays the Pepsi events. So I’m pleased with what she shot. Now, she can be a lot better. I think her best golf is ahead of her. If she ever develops a short game to be aggressive from 50 yards and in, that is her weakest area. But she hung in there today.
“I would have liked to have caught Bremen in the standings, being a conference rival. But, we played pretty well and I’m OK with that.”
Rounding out the area scores, Tippecanoe Valley finished at 471 and Whitko at 478. Liz Van Meter had the top score for the Vikings at 111 and April Bishop led the Wildcats with a 102.
Up next for the advancers is the East Noble Regional next Saturday at Noble Hawk Golf Course in Kendallville. Results had not come in from the other five feeding sectionals as to which teams will comprise the 18-team field, but the prospects of having No. 1 Penn and No. 12 Marion in the mix, both of which bumped Warsaw out last September from the regional, has LaLonde needing to see better execution from her Tigers.
“Our chipping and putting need to get better, and our number four and five girls really need to buckle down,” LaLonde said. “They need to drop some scores. I know Elizabeth and Alexis can drop scores, we just have to get the four and five to stay right in there at 95 to 100, that is what they need to focus on.”
Warsaw Girls Golf Sectional – Stonehenge Country Club – par 71
1. Rochester – 349
2. NorthWood – 351
3. Warsaw – 369
4. Wawasee – 387
5. Plymouth – 391
6. Bremen – 416
7. Columbia City – 425
8. Triton – 427
9. Tippecanoe Valley – 471
10. Whitko – 478
11. Caston – 515
1. Nikki LaLonde 40-39-79
2. Elizabeth Meadows 45-44-89
3. Alexis Manwaring 45-44-89
4. Kristen Watson 60-52-112
5. Madi Graham 63-55-118
1. Elizabeth Jackson 40-47-87
2. Mikala Mawhorter 49-41-90
3. Aubrey Schmeltz 55-70-125
4. Kylee Rostochak 59-49-108
5. Kamryn Foy 51-51-102
1. Hannah Jennings 44-45-89
2. Lizzy Erne 46-50-96
3. Lillie Berger 59-60-119
4. Courtney Zentz 68-79-147
5. Kayla Kreft 68-55-123
Tippecanoe Valley (471)
1. Alyssa Van Meter 60-59-119
2. Victoria Biddle 61-65-126
3. Kara Eaton 57-58-115
4. Liz Van Meter 57-54-111
1. April Bishop 47-55-102
2. Samantha Shell 57-74-131
3. Kennedy Krull 63-61-124
4. Elizabeth Gensch 68-73-141
5. Claire Reiff 63-58-121