Center Grove girls golf wins sectional championship

When you can throw away a 75, your team had a pretty good day.

Host Center Grove left nothing to chance during Monday’s sectional at Hickory Stick, putting up five strong rounds and posting a team score of 290 to earn a relatively comfortable 18-shot victory over Franklin.

Rowen Pfeifle led the third-ranked Trojans with an even-par 71, good for second individually. She was followed in close succession by Magnolia Miller (72), Camille Short (73), Ellie Adkisson (74) and Lexi Stuart (75).

Having all five girls playing well at the same time helped keep the pressure from mounting on any particular player.

“Knowing that we were all doing well, I didn’t feel like I had to do anything crazy,” Pfeifle said.

“I didn’t see, at any point in time, any one of the five let anything get to them,” Center Grove coach Cale Hoover added. “We stayed true to the process. We’ve been working really hard on the mental aspects of the game, and trying to play a certain way and not worry so much about scores and results — and you see evidence of them doing it.”

The No. 9 Grizzly Cubs got their usual top-shelf performance from sophomore Lexi Ray, who carded a 3-under 68 to claim individual medalist honors.

“It was kind of a battle all day,” Ray said. “I wasn’t hitting the ball the best, but I’m just glad that my putts were dropping.”

Addie Livorno finished at 74 for Franklin, while Addi Bright and Reese Phillips both turned in rounds of 83 and Kara Heuchan shot 90. The Grizzly Cubs’ total of 308 was its lowest ever in sectional play.

The third and final team bid to Saturday’s regional went to Greenwood, which posted a 375 to edge Whiteland by seven strokes. Gracie Gasaway paced the Woodmen with an 84 out of the No. 2 spot, followed by Emma Baker at 92. Lucia Agresta at 96 and Celia Stanley with a 103.

“I’m really pleased with their focus in the last few weeks,” Greenwood co-coach Jim Hassee said. “They’ve been starting to get their short game in better shape; the work they put in is paying off.”

Though it fell short of advancing as a team, Whiteland had two individuals earn spots in the regional. Kylie McGovern and Chloe Cooper claimed the last two tickets with respective scores of 88 and 92. Emma Gunn (98) and Karley Hoagland (104) rounded out the scoring for the Warriors.

Greenwood Christian was fifth with a 406, led by a 99 from Morgan Brandt. Taylor Harris and Emily Heldman each shot 100, while Makynlee Conn added a 107.

With the first round of the postseason behind them, the surviving teams and players can focus their attention on the next leg of the journey, which will be played at The Legends.

Franklin — which is looking to end a 24-year drought between state appearances — has fallen just short of the season’s final weekend several times in recent years but is hopeful that being back on its home course will help put this group over the hump.

“Hopefully we can make it to state this year,” Ray said. “That’s the goal.”

Center Grove, meanwhile, has even bigger goals in mind going forward — especially with how well the current starting five has been playing of late. The Trojans played well at Prairie View (the state finals course) last week, and Monday’s round only continued that forward momentum.

“We’ve been noticing things trending the right way,” Hoover said. “If there’s ever a time to catch a two-week, really be peaking and catch a heater, now’s a great time. The state tournament series in golf is short, so you can carry that through two weeks. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”