By Adam Yoder
LAFAYETTE – As the calendar turns to August, the IHSAA girls golf season starts with a bang with many teams playing as many 18-hole tournaments as they can in a short window before most schools’ opening days of classes.
NorthWood enters another year of high expectations with a pair of high profile lid lifters as the Panthers took to Tippecanoe County to compete in a pair of tournament Monday and Tuesday.
Monday, August 2nd: Harrison (West Lafayette) Invitational at Coyote Crossing Golf Club
The opening event at Harrison is unique in its format. Teams play in fivesomes with their coach keeping scores and the four best of five scores counting on each hole toward the team total.
Traditional high school scores take the four best total scores out of five players to make the team total.
On the format, coach Yoder said, “As a coach, it’s a lot of fun to get to see players get to play in one group with all of the parents and fans from our contingent following the same group. For the players, I know they enjoy that family aspect of the format because that’s how our program works, we’re very close. However, when it comes to the golf part of it, I’m not sure it is that much fun for our players…we can’t ever seem to find a rhythm as a group in that format.”
The Panthers earned a runner-up finish with a 366 in the ten-team field, falling to Heritage Christian’s 352, who defended their 2020 title at the event. Ellie MacDonald of the Eagles from Indianapolis also took medalist honors for her team with an 81. Stillson (83) and Goss (85) struggled by their standards, but notched a few All-State points with their third and fourth place finishes.
Both players walked up to the scoreboard after their rounds, took a glance at the scores (both individual and team), and nodded, as they sensed this was one title the Panthers may have cost themselves.
When asked what they could do to do to help their team as individuals, each quipped, “play better.”
Kitson opened her junior season with a 96, Schrock fired a 112, and Sechrist totaled a 118 to round out the Panther line-up.
On the opening round, Yoder commented, “Today just wasn’t what we’re capable of, even for the first day. In traditional scoring that was in the 370’s. We had at least a dozen strokes lost in penalty areas or out of bounds areas. The nice thing is that no one understands that better than these five girls. They have a lot of experience and while there’s a wide range of skill sets, they all know. We need to go have some fun tonight and get back at it tomorrow.”
Tuesday, August 3rd: Lafayette Jefferson Invitational at Battleground Golf Club
A new day, with an early wake-up call ended with the Panthers in much better spirits as they fired a 350 in the traditional format to finish tied for third in the 18-team invite with Lebanon. Guerin Catholic (344) and their star, Christina Pfefferkorn (73) took home the championships.
With an average improvement of seven strokes per player based on Monday’s scores, the Panthers saw a lot more “this is more like it” kind of performances across the board.
Sechrist (103) shaved 15 strokes off Monday’s score to lead the improvement for the 2021 squad.
Stillson shot a much more Cybil-like 74 that included matching nine-hole scores of 37 to nab runner-up honors.
On her round, the senior commented, “I cleaned things up a bit today and was more aggressive when hitting the driver. If I’m going to pull driver on some of these shorter holes, I must swing it hard. If I’m not going to swing hard, then I probably should be hitting a fairway wood or a hybrid off the tee.”
Goss, who recently was in New York for a junior event, notched another top ten with an 82 in a round where not much fell for her on the greens.
“I was very close on a lot of putts and some of my iron shots. I played better today. Its not what my standards are, but I certainly felt better out there. I was super happy to see all five of us bounce back like we did from yesterday,” Goss said.
Kitson also shaved five strokes off Monday’s score to shoot 91 (including a near hole-out eagle on the par four fourth) and Schrock saw her ball-striking continue to improve and ended with a 108.
On the second day of the trip, Coach Yoder was beaming about his group, “We all know each other so well and have been through so many battles over the last few years together, so there’s a high level of trust in who we are and what we do. I think the world of our group of girls, but at the same time, there are new hurdles and new challenges in front of us this year. I really feel we took a big step toward who we could be by September in the hours between 6:30 yesterday evening and 8:30 this morning.”
There’s not much rest in store for the Panthers after two long days away from home, as they host their own event Thursday at McCormick Creek Golf Course, travel to Lake Central’s invitational on Friday at Palmira Golf Course, and participate in the State Preview at Prairie View Golf Club (the site of the IHSAA state finals) on Saturday.