KENDALLVILLE – The East Noble Girls Golf Regional presents the final hurdle in the race to Carmel and the state finals. In what is shaping up to be a very wide open tournament Saturday at Cobblestone Golf Course, there is more hope than ever that ‘this could be the year’ for many. Which includes teams from NorthWood, Wawasee, Columbia City and plenty of area golfers.
At last year’s regional, which was at Noble Hawk located just a few miles southeast of Cobblestone, Penn was the clear-cut favorite and backed up its regional championship with a state runner-up finish. NorthWood and Rochester both fended off the field, which included Warsaw and several Fort Wayne-area contenders, to grab state finals tickets. While Penn is back in the regional after a sectional title at its own sectional, the Lady Kingsmen are far from a lock after posting the highest team total of anyone from a sectional (381) and dealing with the glaring losses of proven contributors.
While team scores can be deceiving, as each course has its own niches and weather patterns, Cobblestone should be fair to the 18 teams and 18 individuals converging Saturday. It would be expected that host East Noble should fare well, but Leo is likely primed to contend for one of the team spots. Posting a 341 to win the Angola Sectional, Leo should contend in a field that doesn’t have a ranked team in the latest state poll. Teams from Fort Wayne Carroll, Homestead, Bellmont, Fort Wayne Dwenger, NorthWood and Wawasee should also be near the top three.
Looking at Wawasee, its fate lies not in the top two, but the next three golfers. The top two of Mikala Mawhorter and Elizabeth Jackson have been steady and solid all year in leading the club. Wawasee’s 17-1 dual record and Northern Lakes Conference tournament title came from the output that Aubrey Schmeltz, Kylee Rostochak and Kamryn Foy offered from the support positions. Head coach Steve Coverstone has made no bones that getting consistent play from his three through five golfers has been key, and that showed its worth in taking runner-up honors at a competitive Warsaw Sectional last Saturday.
“When we get consistent scores out of our three-four-five, we tend to do pretty well,” Coverstone said. “If we can get those scores at Stonehenge, we can get those and probably better at Cobblestone. I feel pretty good about where we are at heading to regional.”
Mawhorter and Jackson both golfed in last year’s regional, and Mawhorter, a junior, also golfed as an individual at Cobblestone in the regional as a freshman. Jackson, a senior, was just a freshman the last time Wawasee golfed as a team in a regional when the team qualified in 2011.
One of the more intriguing teams in the regional is NorthWood. Champions by 12 strokes at the Warsaw sectional, the Lady Panthers went 11-0 in duals this season and earned a handful of invitational titles along the way as well as a share of the NLC title with Wawasee. Having qualified for state for the first time last season, NorthWood is not completely foreign to the postseason hustle having played in the regional in each of the past three seasons. But that doesn’t mean coach Adam Yoder’s team will be a cinch to make a repeat trip to the finals.
“Our goal was to get to the regional and we’ve accomplished that, and won the sectional which is great,” Yoder said. “There really is not a clear-cut favorite this year, which I think helps everyone because there is a little more to play for without a team already sitting at the top like Penn did last year.”
Columbia City makes its first team regional appearance since 2006, led by No. 1 Macenzie Lane and a steady corps of support.
The individual race could be well-contested. Among the individuals working Saturday include sectional medalists Jaycee Bunner of Fort Wayne Blackhawk, Oak Hill’s Lauren Tibbets, Alyn Clark of East Noble, Agata Kreckova of Elkhart Central, Karsten Lingenfelter of Rochester and Amber Nelson of Norwell.
Golf is set to begin at 9 a.m. at Cobblestone, which is on the west side of Kendallville just south and west of the US 6-SR 3 junction. Admission is free.
The top three teams and top five individuals from non-advancing teams will qualify for the IHSAA Girls Golf State Finals, which begin Friday, Oct. 3 at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.