By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Sometimes it pays to stay to the end of the show.
In an old cliché, “when the dust settled”, the Warsaw Girls Golf Sectional just kept on giving when it came to storylines as the tournament went overtime and then some Saturday afternoon at Stonehenge Golf Club.
A three-girl playoff for a regional spot ended up being just a two-girl playoff, and two holes were needed to separate those two, along with a ruling that wasn’t a ruling. Oh, 2020, you’ve been fun.
In the individual regional qualifier listing, Plymouth’s Olivia Horvath, Wawasee’s Tate Cowan and Rochester’s Karah Lingenfelter all finished third with a 98. Needing a playoff to decide which of the three advances to next week’s regional, Horvath was nowhere to be found, as were Cowan’s clubs. Both ended up being in cars heading away from the course, Horvath later disqualified for missing the 4:20 tee for the playoff and Cowan having to borrow clubs.
After Cowan made a nice recovery off the 18th’s pond edge, she matched Lingenfelter with a bogey, and both went back to the 18th tee. Cowan’s next tee sailed across the pond and into the fabled heather. But rather than sending a search party into the landscaping, Cowan hit a provisional from the drop zone. Her provisional became an extra stroke, and would be the difference as Lingenfelter won one-up to take the final regional ticket, joining teammate and sister, Kristianna Lingenfelter (91) and Wawasee’s Taylor Cripe (89) as advancers.
The 89 and 91 would have been the best scores of the day had NorthWood not gone one-two-three in the standings to easily cruise to its third straight sectional championship. The Panthers had Cybil Stillson shoot a 76 to earn her second sectional medalist honor, followed by Breanna Goss at 81 and Abbie Richner at 87. Riley Kitson was the fourth score for the champs at 102.
Stillson, who won a two-hole playoff last week to repeat as Northern Lakes Conference medalist, becomes the first NorthWood girls golfer to win two sectional medalist honors. Gina Yoder, Heidi Morganthaler and Linnzie Richner all won one.
“I think I learned more today about my game than I have in any other round I played,” Stillson said. “I felt like today I had a consistent miss, which is a positive, even though a miss is a negative. I felt like my miss today was consistent which I can take away as a positive and work on that all week and work to correct it before regionals.”
NorthWood has won five sectionals in the past seven years, featured three birdies from Stillson on her scorecard and were 25 strokes better (174) than anyone on the back nine, where the remainder of the field fell behind.
“This week, we wanted to win, this team needed a win,” said NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder. “We’ve been banging our head against the wall the past couple weeks, a lot of top-three finishes but no firsts since the New Prairie Invitational back in August. This week we wanted to enjoy the day and make sure we got a championship, and got the individual championship and finished one-two-three, so that’s really cool.”
Warsaw claimed the second team spot, shooting 188 on the front side where it played most of its regular season golf, but fell back to a 391 overall.
Marie Frazzetta, who had struggled the past couple weeks, recovered nicely Saturday to pace the Tigers with a 43-48 for a 91. The No. 1 played bogey golf on the front side, then only had one big number on the back.
“Today, it was all about getting the girls to play smart,” said Warsaw head coach David James. “I didn’t need the girls to play par golf. Play basic, smart bogey golf. That what’s going to get us there. And for the most part, the girls went out and did that, and that’s what we were looking for.”
Sydney Lancaster was next in with a 94, followed by 99 from Delaney Byron, who returned from virtually a month off of tournament play with a back injury, then a 107 from both Abigail Davis and Brooklyn Fitzgerald.
The regional qualifier for Warsaw is the second straight trip.
Making its first regional trip presumably in program history is Tippecanoe Valley. The Vikings, riding high after winning the Three Rivers Conference tournament a week ago, kept the good vibes and consistent play going.
Turning in a 404 after a 93 from Madelyn Weaver, 97 from Molly Moriarty, 106 from Cheney Canada and 108 from Kadence Mellott, the Vikings had to sit in the pavilion in third and wait to see if a pair of TRC rivals – Rochester or Whitko – along with Bremen would knock the Vikings from the third spot.
That wouldn’t happen as Bremen limped in with a 468, Rochester had to use a 114 among its 413, and Whitko couldn’t break a 100 in turning in a 417, sending pure joy through the Valley faithful seated in the back of the gallery.
“Twenty minutes ago, to be honest, I was not very excited,” said Valley head coach Thadd Mellott right after the final team scores were written on the boards. “We struggled on the greens, but, apparently everybody else struggled on the greens as well. But we’re playing our best golf of the season right now. Our discussions, though, are going to be from the putting greens this week. That’s where we’re going to spend a lot of our time in practice for the regional.”
Wawasee missed out on the regional after carding a 409 team score, falling five short of Valley but would have had to score 403 because of the fifth-man tiebreaker Valley held on Wawasee. The Lady Warriors were led by Cripe’s 89 and Cowan’s 98, then had Rylee Firestone settle at 107, Ayla Torres at 115 and Izy Losee at 121.
Triton’s three golfers were officially eliminated from the state tournament in missing the cut on the individual list. Madeline Ritchison had a par on the par-three 17th, but had to take a 10 on the 18th to finish at 115, with teammates Haley Rensberger at 124 and Lilly Hubert at 125.
NorthWood, Warsaw and Valley will take their cuts next Saturday at the East Noble Regional, held at Noble Hawk Golf Links. Among the teams involved will include state-ranked Homestead, Concord and Penn among the contenders.