Western girls golf coach Steve Hoppes went into Friday’s IHSAA sectional at Chippendale G.C. with a goal of making the regional cut. To accomplish that goal, the Panthers needed to finish in the top three of the 11-team field.
The Panthers did that and more.
In one of the closest finishes imaginable, the Panthers won their fourth sectional title in five years and 13th all-time. Western and Kokomo had matching 356 scores with Western winning on the tiebreaker, which was the better fifth score. Tipton followed one stoke back in third place.
“I’ve never seen it in 20 years, or however long I’ve been doing this, that close, especially three teams. I’ve seen two teams close, but not all three teams within one stroke,” Hoppes said.
Maconaquah (366) and Northwestern (374) finished fourth and fifth.
Kokomo senior Kiah Parrott was medalist with a 3-under 70 and Tipton sophomore Lucy Quigley was runner-up with a 76. Western countered with balance from juniors Ella Williamson (83) and Mady Smith (86) and freshman Ava Williamson (89). Ella Williamson finished fourth, Smith tied for fifth and Ava Williamson was seventh.
“Ava had never shot in the 80s,” Hoppes noted. “She’s had 92, 93, somewhere in that area, and she came in with an 89. The best part is she said, ‘That 89 looks a lot better than a 90.’”
Sophomore Kylee Duncan and senior Megan Hill rounded out Hoppes’ lineup. The Panthers counted Duncan’s 98 as their fourth score — and Hill’s 99 came into play as well. The Panthers won the tiebreaker thanks to Hill closing with a 44 on the back after struggling on the front.
“I told her [at the turn] that her score was going to count somewhere and it counted big,” Hoppes said.
Runner-up Kokomo fell a stroke shy of repeating as team champion.
“We knew it was going to be close coming in,” Kat coach Andy Carpenter said. “It’s tough because everybody had a bad hole or bad stroke somewhere where we could have [cut] one or two strokes.”
Parrott felt that way about her own game. The Ball State recruit fired a 3-under 33 on the front and an even-par 37 on the back.
“Honestly, I did not play that good, but if 3-under is my worst score, I’ll have to be all right,” she said. “I definitely left quite a few shots out there and wish I could go back and replay some of those shots. I played really good on the front, then two bad shots on the back kind of made it an ‘eh’ round.”
Parrott also was the sectional’s medalist in 2017. She was the runner-up in 2016 and ‘18.
“I definitely like the postseason a lot, but I also think it helps that we play out here so much so I know the course really well,” she said.
Senior Haley Salinas (91), freshman Elizabeth Lytle (96) and junior Molly Mavrick (99) provided the Kats’ second, third and fourth scores.
Third-place Tipton had a bittersweet day. While the Blue Devils fell just shy of the team title, they are advancing as a team to the regional round for the first time.
“I don’t know whether to be upset about finishing third or just thrilled to be a part of it,” Tipton coach Jason Bales said. “We knew all season [that Western, Kokomo and Tipton were evenly matched]. I’ll be honest, I almost hated winning the three-way that we played earlier because I thought, ‘This isn’t the one I wanted to win.’ I’d rather win this one. But I’m so proud.”
Quigley led the Devils with a 76 with Lacie Logan (91), Ava Clouser (94) and Emma Crawford (96) rounding out the team score.
“This is the first time in our school history we’ve [advanced]. We finished fourth so many times,” Bales said. “Would we have liked to have [the trophy] coming home with us? Sure, but we’ll take [third] and run. Kokomo and Western are tough to beat here. I don’t think they played their best and I know we didn’t give our best, but we did enough.”
Hoppes was thrilled to capture the title.
“For these kids, it’s great. We have just one senior in this bunch,” he said. “Give Kokomo credit and give Tipton credit too. There’s three good teams. We’re not super teams, but we’re three good teams and I think all three teams can do well at regional. I don’t know if we can get in the top three, but all three of us can do well and Kiah can go over there and win that sucker. She’s a great player and so is Quigley.”
The teams will play in the Lafayette Jeff Regional on Sept. 28 at Battle Ground G.C.
Advancing from the sectional as individuals are Maconaquah players Kianna Sharp (81) and Brianna Smitley (91) and Northwestern sophomore Audrey Koetter (86) as the top three finishers from non-advancing teams. Smitley defeated Northwestern junior Mollie Habig in a playoff for the final spot.
Sharp finished third overall behind Parrott and Quigley and Koetter tied for fifth.