Experienced golfers in Shelby County are at a premium as the Indiana high school girls golf season is about to tee off.
Four veteran coaches are in full-teaching mode as the first practices of the season take place at Blue Bear Golf Course in Shelbyville, Hawk’s Tail in Greenfield and Timbergate in Edinburgh.
Morristown will be the first to compete Tuesday against Edinburgh. Shelbyville debuts one day later in a home match with Mt. Vernon. Triton Central’s golf season starts Monday with a three-way match hosted by Greenfield-Central. And Southwestern will host Edinburgh on Aug. 10.
All four local golf programs will compete in the New Palestine Sectional in mid-September at The Links Golf Club. Shelby County did not have a regional qualifier in 2020.
Jason Bass is in his second season as head coach of the Golden Bears and his fourth with the program. Filling out his lineup card this season will not be complicated with just five golfers set to compete.
Seniors Kaylee Tackett and Lanie Stephens return for one final season and are joined by fellow senior and first-time golf team member Regan Mathies.
Kate Linville, a junior, and sophomore Madison Monroe also return to the links.
“I’ve learned that starting off a little slow is not bad,” said Bass. “We had some consistently practicing in the summer but they also do other sports and work. Golf is a sport you have to do consistently to get better but I know with four returning, they will put in the work.”
Shelbyville finished fifth at the 2020 sectional with then-senior Karaline Richards leading the way with an 18-hole score of 97. No other Golden Bear broke triple digits.
There is little time to prepare for a busy first week. The Golden Bears host Mt. Vernon Tuesday, travel to New Castle Friday and compete in the Greensburg Invitational Saturday.
“It will be a good test to see where we are at,” said Bass.
Bass is not worried about positioning of the roster since all five scores will be considered toward the team score.
“After a good week I will have a pretty good idea where they are at,” said Bass. “The scores will separate themselves.
“They are all right there together consistently within four shots of each other. Everyone plays and we take the top four scores. Hopefully, we pick up right where we left off. They are all pretty equally talented right now. It’s nice to have three matches out of the gate and see where we are at.”
Three of Triton Central’s five golfers will be new to the sport.
Seniors Emma Branham and Kendra Erdmann return with sectional experience. Branham had the Tigers’ low sectional score in 2020.
Senior Olivia Martin is new but picking up the sport quickly, according to head coach Josh Landis.
Freshman Allison Williams joins the program this year, too.
The fifth golfer will be an exchange student that has not yet arrived in Fairland.
“We want to get to the point where we are competing well at sectional time,” said Landis. “Emma and Kendra definitely have the ability to qualify out of sectionals. The rest we still need to get to feeling comfortable on the golf course.”
Triton Central, which uses Hawk’s Tail Golf Course in Greenfield as its home course, will face Rushville and Greenfield-Central Monday in its first match.
“The first several matches will probably be a little rough,” admitted Landis. “With our new golfers, they have to spend a lot of time on the (driving) range. We have to have a rules meeting and teach them how to keep score, about hazards and out of bounds just to get them to be comfortable playing a round.”
Head coach Tom Workman has four returning golfers and a pair of underclassmen.
“I like the balance of it all,” said Workman, “but I would like more underclassmen.”
Seniors Ryeland Brewer, McKinley Kile and Delaney Cornn all represented the Yellow Jackets at the 2020 sectional. Junior Ashlee Ballinger did as well.
Sophomore Mollie Runnebohm and freshman Clara Hale round out the 2021 roster.
“We’re in pretty good shape right now,” said Workman. “The swings look good. The tempo looks good. We just need to get back to playing on a regular basis.”
Morristown will call Blue Bear Golf Course in Shelbyville its home course this season. The Yellow Jackets are at Edinburgh today then host Heritage Christian Thursday.
Workman’s plan is simple – develop his golfers’ short game to match their driving ability.
“We hit better than we score,” he said. “We need work around the green. If we improve our short game, we will start dropping scores.”
Head coach Gary Muldoon believes there will be six golfers in the program this season.
Returning from the 2020 sectional lineup are seniors Lily Kerber and Alison Muck. They will be joined by McKinley Correll and Olivia Chandler.
Muldoon has two more golfers that have been practicing during the summer months and he expects them to start the season with the program.
The Spartans open the season Aug. 10 against Edinburgh at Timbergate Golf Course, its home course this season.
“The course is in really good shape and it has a driving range,” said Muldoon.
The Spartans will need time to develop and Muldoon knows he is starting from scratch with several golfers.
“I have two that have never held a club before,” he said. “It starts with the grip and we go from there.”