WARSAW – There could be a popular theme at the Warsaw Girls Golf Sectional this weekend at Stonehenge Golf and Country Club. Family first.
A pair of contending teams are very family oriented and could play into the continuations of teams in the state tournament. Both Rochester and NorthWood host a trio of sisters, and after a trip to the state finals for both teams last fall, family road trips are on the list again this year.
The Richners have been vital to the success of NorthWood, which ran undefeated in the regular season at 11-0 and were co-champions in the Northern Lakes Conference with Wawasee, which won the NLC tournament last weekend. Linnzie Richner is NorthWood’s No. 1 and has been all season, and with sisters Baillie and Madison comprising two of the five other varsity spots, the siblings will have a say in how the Panthers fare at Stonehenge. NorthWood also has had solid contributions from Summer Stillson and Rachel Beebe, both providing consistent results as the season progressed.
“We plan for each course meticulously and play the best we can mentally each day, and whatever happens, we’re content with that,” stated NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder. “We’re much more about process and mindset than we are about results. “Results take care of themselves if you play well.”
Rochester also has three-of-a-kind on the roster in the Lingenfelter sisters. All told, Karsten, Kovenant and Kinley are three of 10 total kids in the family. Their games this season have been solid for Rochester as the Zebras enter the sectional as defending champions and state qualifiers in 2013, and have been right in the middle of the success again as Three Rivers Conference champions for the third straight season last weekend.
Wawasee could be considered the frontrunner or the darkhorse, depending on who is asked. The Lady Warriors, which golfed against NorthWood five times this season and bested them three times, ran 17-1 in duals this season but the one came to NorthWood two weeks ago. Wawasee also trumped Rochester and host Warsaw on a pair of occasions, but were not able to win an 18-hole event until the NLC Championship last weekend.
At the top, Mikala Mawhorter and Elizabeth Jackson are as good as anyone in the sectional field, but contributions from Kylee Rostochak, Aubrey Schmeltz and whomever lands in the five-spot for the Lady Warriors will make or break.
Traditionally, Wawasee hasn’t fared well at Stonehenge in tournaments, and have won just two sectionals in the past 19 years. Consistency is one thing, but sure bets are not in Wawasee head coach Steve Coverstone’s vocabulary.
“Stonehenge causes problems for everyone, it’s the same thing for all the golfers,” said Coverstone. “If you get into the hazards, the high heather, the island green on No. 11, there are issues everywhere. We have to avoid those things and just play the course.”
One of the teams that worries Coverstone the most is Warsaw. While the Lady Tigers have not had the banner season the program has been used to, the program has eight sectional titles to its credit and the NLC medalist in Alexis Manwaring. There is a definitive advantage for Warsaw playing on its home course at Stonehenge, which has made life miserable for golfers with its trademark rolling fairways and water hazards all over the course.
With Kristen Watson and Madi Graham both rehearsed in postseason play from last year’s regional, and the strides both Ash Jain and Page Desenberg have made, Warsaw could be lurking in the high heather to steal a ticket to the East Noble Regional Sept. 27 at Cobblestone.
“I would hope we would have a little bit of an advantage playing Stonehenge, we just need to go out there and have good course management,” said Warsaw skipper Ray Davis. “We haven’t done that at times – especially on the front nine – and that has hurt our scores. We have worked a lot the past couple of weeks on course management and hope that pays off this Saturday.”
Plymouth and Columbia City could also play a role in deciding the advancement as both have been competitive this season. Plymouth’s Randi Dunn finished seventh at the NLC Championships and Columbia City’s Mackenzie Lane has been consistent atop the team’s lineup. Triton’s Hannah Jennings returns after a trip to regionals last year and could play into the individual standings with a solid round on a familiar course. Whitko, Tippecanoe Valley, Bremen and Caston round out the playing field.
The top three teams and top three individuals from a non-advancing team from the Warsaw Girls Golf Sectional will advance to the regional. The East Noble Girls Golf Regional will bring in teams and individuals from the Angola, East Noble, Huntington North, Norwell, Penn and Warsaw sectionals. The top three teams and top five individuals from the regional will advance to State, to be played Oct. 3 and 4.