Knox County girls golfers were hard to beat at last Saturday's Vincennes Sectional, posting 11 of the 14 scores that were under 100. South Knox took the championship, Rivet placed second and Lincoln third among the 10 full teams, the first time the county has had the top three places.
They head to the Washington Regional on Saturday at Country Oaks, along with individual qualifier Emma Miller from North Knox, and the golfers they face are going to be decidedly better than what they saw last Saturday.
Led by No. 1-ranked Evansville North, one of four rated teams in the 18-school field, the Knox Country trio are long shots at best to be among the top three teams needed to advance to the state finals.
But the odds improve on being among the five lowest golfers not on state-qualifying teams. Trinity Dubbs of the Spartans was medalist at last week's sectional with a 77. Gwen Hayes of the Alices fired an 81 and Lily Waggoner of the Patriots had an 88, but is capable of playing much better. Last year, the fifth-lowest score was a 79.
If South Knox is any indication, the county teams are putting in the work for Saturday's tournament. Coach Mark Gray said the Spartans are in the midst of going to Country Oaks every day this week.
"We're having every golfer do different things. Trinity is playing a lot of holes this week. The rest of the girls Tuesday just hit balls, putted and chipped," Gray said. "The girls are pretty upbeat, but they know the challenge ahead of them. I'd say there are 4-5 teams that are at the level of small college golf teams. But there's definitely a good chunk of teams we're going to be competitive with.
"We finished 15th here last year. I'm hoping we can move up a few spots."
While South Knox seeks improvement, Dubbs is eyeing more.
"Trinity is looking at this differently. She really wants to advance to state and definitely has a chance," Gray said. "She's has had a big change in her game the last year. She puts in so much time. She'll putt for 3-4 hours. No pro practices putting that much.
"Trinity is going to be fine Saturday. She's played a lot of golf, a lot of tournaments and has played well in our big meets," he said.
Dubbs leads the Spartans, that also has sophomore classmate Bethany Williams, junior Salena Dellinger, senior Lauren Haveman and sophomore Emily Provines. Williams and Haveman recorded their career-best scores at the sectional at 91 and 94.
The coach noted that Country Oaks is going to be a hard test.
"Their greens are really fast. If they wanted to put the pins in tough spots, it would be tough for anyone to break 80," Gray said. "We have to make a point to get on the right side of the green. We're trying to two-putt, but it's easy to blow some of these putts 10-15 feet past the hole.
"We're playing the ball down for the first time this season, so we have to get used to that. This is really the first course we've seen, too, where there are bunkers. We're not going to make anyone a good player out of the sand in one week, but we have to prepare and at least do some things to get it out."
Many of those same obstacles face the Vincennes teams, Rivet and Lincoln.
The Patriots were upset by the Spartans by one shot at last week's sectional and should be motivated to top them on Saturday's scoreboard. This is Rivet's 10th regional appearance in as many tries and the team was ninth in last year's tournament.
Waggoner, a sectional medalist as a junior, has the game but not necessarily the recent form to extend her high school career past Saturday. She has a veteran group with her today, senior classmate Emma Robinson, juniors Maddi Halter and Alicia McGuire, and sophomore Cadence Mills. Robinson (89), McGuire (91) and Mills (93) all had career-best days at the sectional.
The Alices had their best round of this season last Saturday. Hayes was last week's surprise player of the tournament with an 81, and a similar score Saturday has her in the neighborhood of state finals advancement. The junior is followed by freshman Macy Sexton, and seniors Kaylan Finatri, Bailey Robb and Reece Johnson.
Miller, a junior, is the second North Knox player in as many years to be an individual regional qualifier. Teammate Isabella May made it a year ago as a freshman.
Where: Country Oaks, Montgomery
When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday
Teams participating: South Knox, Rivet, Lincoln, No. 1 Evansville North, No. 7 Columbus North, No. 11 Castle, No. 17 Floyd Central, New Albany, Jeffersonville, Jasper, Gibson Southern, Southridge, Evansville Mater Dei, Bedford North Lawrence, Brownstown Central, Seymour, Martinsville, Columbus East.
County individual: Emma Miller, North Knox.
State finals advancement: Top three teams; five lowest individual scores, excluding those individuals who advance with a team.
Last year's advancing teams: Evansville North 284, Evansville Memorial 310, Gibson Southern 327
Last year's medalist: Mallory Russell, Evansville Memorial, 66.
Last year's individuals advancing: Carly Frazier, Castle, 75; Bridget Marshall, Seymour, 76; Haylee Exline, North Posey, 76; Addyson Bailey, Bedford North Lawrence, 76; Kaitlyn Price, New Washington, 79.