School lets out at the usual time every day for the members of the Bloomington North girls’ golf team, but they soon find themselves back in the classroom. Even on Saturdays.
The Cougars had just one player, senior Darian Lafferty, who had competed at the high school level before. She was surrounded by freshmen and first-year players. Four of them had never played a nine-hole match before, let alone put in a full 18-hole round.
Every day, every course is a new experience for them. Another one comes Monday at Cascades when the Bloomington North Sectional tees off. Scores are not yet as low as they’d like, but the learning curve was as steep as a backswing.
“The improved in ways they don’t realize,” Muehlhaus said. “And by that I mean in terms of understanding golf rules and golf etiquette, the importance of pace of play. What shots to hit, what clubs to use in a given situation.
“That’s stuff that takes years and years to learn that stuff and they are learning really quickly. For four of them, they had never played a nine-hole match, never played an 18-hole match. So it’s intimidating. And then you’re playing with people you probably don’t know or who may be or not be better than you. So it’s challenging for them.”
It’s one they’ve met. They’ve hung in. Kendon Galligher, Kate Johnson, Sadie Woodring and Mira Bruce rounded out the Cougars’ Conference Indiana lineup with Annika Lowinger and Evie Chitwood also chasing varsity roles.
“They’ve been great with it,” Muehlhaus said. “The scores haven’t always reflected the improvements they’ve made. They’re still struggling with high scores, they still struggle 50 yards and in. They always want to go to the range, but their errors are close to the green.
“Your goal should be three from right off the green and we’re still seeing a lot of fours and fives. But it’s been enjoyable. There’s been ups and downs, good and not-so-good shots, but there is progress.”
Sectional lineup, tee times
Favorites Bloomington South, Columbus East and Martinsville will start on the Quarry 9 from 8:30-9:10 a.m. followed by Bloomington North and Indian Creek. At the same times on the Pine (holes 10-18), Columbus North, Edgewood and Brown County will be followed by Edinburgh and Owen Valley.
South, been receiving votes in the latest state polls, had a season-best 345 at the conference tourney. The Panthers are led by Melanie Southern and Avery Beck atop an improving cast.
The top three teams and top three individuals not on those teams (all ties broken) advance to the Franklin Regional at The Legends next Saturday. Among the top individuals on teams unlikely to make the top three are North’s Lafferty and Brown County’s Lily VanNess, the Western Indiana Conference champion, as well as Columbus North’s Erin Hopkins and Lindsey Hartwell. Edgewood’s Amara Hanson
Lafferty has an opportunity on her home course to extend her season as a regional veteran, but she’s had her struggles to overcome this season, too.
“She’s not posting scores should be,” Muehlhaus said. ‘The truth of the matter is, she’s hitting the ball pretty well off the tee. She has the length of anybody around. It’s just 75 yards and in, she is letting shots slip away.
“If you’re inside 75, you have to have a birdie putt opportunity. She’s struggling with her short game. She understands where she’s making mistakes, but it’s hard for her to execute it.”
Eastern Greene at Otis Park
Eastern Greene will get its postseason run started this Saturday at Otis Park in Bedford. Play begins at 9 a.m. and the field includes the host Stars, who are ranked 14th in the state, Brownstown Central, Mitchell, Orleans, Paoli, Salem, Seymour, Springs Valley and Trinity Lutheran.
The T-Birds, who have not played at Otis Park this year, are coming off a third-place finish at the SWIAC meet at Phil Harris, shooting a 223, led by Reece Provo with a 45 for second place and all-conference honors. Kyler Buskirk earned honorable mention status with a 56 and Chloe Scott had a 61.
“All three have improved tremendously compared to last year,” Eastern coach Kim Ellett said of her top returning players.
Contact Jim Gordillo at email@example.com and follow on X (Twitter) @JimGordillo.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Lessons learned lead Bloomington North girls golfers to sectional