By Adam Yoder
NAPPANEE – On Wednesday night at McCormick Creek Golf Course, the Panthers took on the Panthers, as Prairie Heights made the trip to Nappanee to face NorthWood.
Panther junior Bre Goss channeled her inner Summer Stillson by earning medalist honors with an even par 36. Stillson, the former NorthWood star and St. Mary’s College senior, has always been one to remind her teammates that in golf, it’s “not how, it’s how many” that matters. Goss’ round on Wednesday was certainly Summer-esque, as fall approaches.
Goss, when asked if her driver was a little off, she quipped with a wry grin, “That would be accurate.”
Then asked about her irons, the 2019 All-NLC first teamer continued, “My irons were a little funky…kept going left, which got me in some trouble, but I putted really, really well. Sometimes, you just gotta find a way to score.”
A birdie on the par four 13th hole after a made 25-footer for bogey on the par three 12th hole would be the only birdies or bogeys on the round for Goss.
Junior number one Cybil Stillson finished with a 39, and the Panthers used Abbie Richner’s 43 and Riley Kitson’s 44 to total a 162 to Prairie Heights’ 207.
Kira Schrock continued her improved play of late with a 52 from the five spot, and Bella Sechrist shot a 57 from her JV position. Neither program had complete JV squads.
The “other” Panthers from Bushy Prairie were led by Haylee Henderson and Madison Kain, who each shot 50 over the back nine at McCormick Creek.
After an 18-hole practice round at South Shore Golf Club on Tuesday afternoon, there was little doubt the Panthers were already looking forward to Saturday’s NLC Championship tournament hosted by the Wawasee Warriors and Warsaw Tigers.
NorthWood, while putting up a respectable score for their standards, was certainly itching to get back to preparation for the next big test. By virtue of finishing second in the NLC regular season, NorthWood can claim at least a share of its ninth straight NLC title with a win in the tournament.
The senior co-captain, Richner, will be playing in her first NLC tournament and is rearing to get out there on Saturday. “I’m definitely super excited and super nervous. We’re going into it confident, though, and that’s really important.”
The younger Stillson is the two-time defending NLC Champion and is looking to become the only player in NorthWood program history to win the tournament three times. Panther legends Amy Thompson (2008 and 2009) and Heidi Morganthaler (2012 and 2013) each won it twice.
On preparing for South Shore, which has some demanding angles/shots off some of the tees, Stillson commented, “It’s a different course set-up, so I’ll have to hit some shot shapes I don’t normally hit. But I’m excited for that. I honestly think I’m better with shots that aren’t so straight-forward because it’s more fun to be creative. We’re up for the challenge.”
NorthWood has had eight of the last twelve NLC medalists, so history is in Stillson’s favor. A win would give her a chance to win her fourth in 2021, a feat only accomplished by former Warsaw Tiger, Emily Johnson (2003-06).
Coach Yoder’s thoughts on this weekend were straight-forward.
“We have to play well, that’s the bottom line,” stated Yoder, who won his 150th career dual golf match Wednesday against Prairie Heights. “I feel very good about this team and where we’re headed in preparation for South Shore and as we enter the championship phase of the season, but in the end, it’s how well you think and play when the pressure is on and the championships are on the line. That’s what makes September in girls golf so much fun.”
Saturday’s tee times for the NLC Championships at South Shore Golf Course begin at 8:30 a.m. with Northridge and Mishawaka going off No. 10 in a 5-4-3-2-1 format. Wawasee, Warsaw, and Goshen will go off No. 1 during the same time period. Following the early tee times, NorthWood, Concord, and Plymouth will go off No. 1 at 9:20 a.m.