KENDALLVILLE – It wasn’t quite the agony NorthWood had felt at Cobblestone at the girls golf regional. But as the saying goes, “no one remembers second place,” in the high school tournament golf world, no one wants to be fourth place. Needing to field a team in the top three at Saturday’s East Noble Girls Golf Regional, NorthWood found itself in fourth place in the final team standings, once again on the outside looking in.
Wawasee, Warsaw and Manchester also competed among area teams that included Northridge and Concord from the Northern Lakes Conference, but it just wasn’t the day for any of the locals.
Homestead won the regional title with a sparkling 308, followed by Penn at 315 and Dwenger at 325, grabbing the coveted tickets to the IHSAA State Finals next weekend. NorthWood finished fourth at 335 and Leo fifth at 340.
The Panthers had started its round already with a step back as No. 3 golfer Madison Richner couldn’t fight off an illness and officially bowed out of coach Adam Yoder’s lineup early Saturday morning. Replacing Richner was No. 6 Hope Cripe, who shot a respectable 106 on only a couple hour’s notice. Richner had been at 86 and 88 in the conference and sectional tournaments.
NorthWood had Alaina Benjamin at 94 and Abby Slabaugh at 87 to go with Summer Stillson’s 79 and Mackenzie Weaver’s 75. Even replacing Benjamin’s 94 with another 86, Yoder’s team would have fallen two shots short of Dwenger.
“We had a good idea for a couple days now that Madison might not play, and credit to Hope for coming in at the last minute and playing in a regional,” Yoder said. “It was just in everyone’s best interest that Madison not play today. But even on her best day, we’re still a couple shots short of Dwenger. I don’t know if it would be worse to lose by two or 10. But the kids have absolutely nothing to be mad about with today’s round.”
NorthWood finished fifth at Cobblestone in 2014, just two strokes out of third place. At Noble Hawk in 2013 and 2015, NorthWood finished second each season to make the state finals, but were ninth at Cobblestone in 2012.
Weaver’s 75 was one stroke off of a state finals berth, and the ultra-improved sophomore left several shots begging including a short putt on No. 1 that left Weaver jumping in disbelief. Stillson graduates from the program as a four-time regional finalist and participated in both state finals for the Panthers.
“We’ve had another incredible season,” Yoder stated. “We knew this was going to be tough here. The last nine holes here we played some of our best golf. It’s hard to tell the girls that’s not good enough to get out. But they can look back on this season as the Northern Lakes Conference champion and the sectional champion after you lose a Division 1 player (Linnzie Richner) and you lose your No. 3 today.”
Wawasee came into the regional after finishing second last week at the Warsaw Sectional. The Lady Warriors, golfing with three newcomers and two seniors, were well back of the pack, but still posted a decent 372.
Seniors Madison Beaman and Aubrey Schmeltz led the club with rounds of 86 and 88, respectively. Jadison Rostochak, just a freshman, posted a 98 while sophomore Lesley Tayagua had a 100 and sophomore Zoe White had a 104.
“I’m really proud of the way the kids have played this season,” said Wawasee head coach Steve Coverstone as he hustled off the Cobblestone course to attend his son, Curtis’, wedding. “This is a tough course. It’s great experience for the young girls. It makes me sad that we’re losing our seniors Aubrey and Madison, they had good years, but you look at it and we return a lot of young talent. This is a good experience for our team.”
Warsaw, in a similar boat as Wawasee, led with two seniors and had a load of young talent to follow in their first regional. Seniors Madi Graham and Page Desenberg finished their final rounds of golf as Warsaw players with scores of 90 and 93, respectively. Sophomore Delaney Wihebrink also had a 93 and sophomore twins Mady and Izzy Ray went 102 and 103. The Lady Tigers finished up its regional appearance at 378 after missing the regional last year.
“Overall, I have no complaints, I’m really proud of how they played,” said Warsaw head coach Tad Nieter, whose club matched its season-best score at the regional. “I’m ecstatic for the girls. This is a great stepping stone for the young girls.”
Manchester, after winning it’s first sectional title last week, posted a 387. Karly Eichenauer led the Lady Squires with a 94, followed by matching 97s from Lydia Little and Kelsey Eichenauer. Samantha Kissel had a 99 and Madison Ulrey had a 102 for the girls in pink.
Concord, playing in its first regional since 2002, shot a 354 led by 84s from its top two golfers of Elise Boessler and and Erika Shirley.
Northridge came home with a 356, led by the state finalist Braedyn O’Dell, who shot a 74 golfing in the Warsaw group.
Also qualifying for state as an individual was Rochester’s Kinley Lingenfelter, who shot a 74 Saturday to qualify for the state finals for the third straight year. Lingenfelter tore up the Stonehenge course last week to lead the Warsaw Sectional with a 67.
Also advancing to state without a team were Brooke Moser of Leo (74), Dayna Dale of Southwood (73) and Amber Nelson of Norwell, whose 68 was the top score of the regional.
The IHSAA Girls Golf State Finals will begin Friday, Sept. 30, at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel. The two-day tournament will conclude Saturday, Oct. 1.