Sunday, November 2, 2014

Jones, Gill, Martin qualify for golf state finals

BATTLE GROUND — Maconaquah's Brandi Jones said she was about as surprised as anyone to find herself the topic of conversation at the Lafayette Jeff girls golf regional tournament Saturday at the Battle Ground G.C.

The sophomore saved her best golf the season for the regional tournament, shooting a 79 and qualifying for the IHSAA state golf tournament next week at the Prairie View Golf Course in Carmel along with Western sophomore Minka Gill and Northwestern senior Ashton Martin.

The fact that Gill and Martin advanced to the finals was probably not a surprise after both shot a 75 to tie for the medalist honors last weekend at Western Sectional at the Chippendale Golf Club.

But Jones, who shot an 87 in the sectional but advanced to the regional as an individual even though her team placed eighth last Saturday, shot a 38 over the first nine holes, putting here one shot off Lafayette Central Catholic's Morgan Brown as one of tournament's early leaders.

She shot a 41 on the back nine, which allowed her to tie Martin with a 79 overall to move on to the state tournament. It was a career best for Jones, who said she never shot better than an 80.

"I thought it was an honor just to make it to regionals so I didn't want to come here and disappoint anyone," Jones said. "To be honest, my goal was under 100 because it was reachable. I've never been under 80 before, so I guess that was a good place to do it."

Jones admitted that making the state tournament has caused her to rethink some of her goals and priorities as she entered the biggest stage high school girl's golf next week.

"It would be a huge honor and great experience to play with some of those girls," Jones said. "I'm very proud. I hit a bunch a great shots and know I can do it. It's a real motivator to know that I really can play well."

For Martin, the Northwestern senior, reaching the state tournament was the result of a long cat-and-mouse game that finally came to an end.

"I've been trying to get this for four years and I'm finally going [to state]," said Martin, who led her Purple Tigers into the regional competition Saturday. "I was sitting inside and haven't been paying attention when my name was called."

Martin said she knew the regional competition was tough. The tournament featured five state-ranked teams — No. 7 Lake Central, No. 12 Chesterton, No. 14 Lafayette Jeff, No. 17 Valparaiso and No. 19 Crown Point.

"I was really nervous about [Saturday] because I know a lot of college coaches wanted to see me at state," Martin said. "Now that I know that I'm going, it's really exciting. I wish my team could be there, but I know they will be there behind me."

Northwestern finished seventh with a 352 while Western was sixth with a 350.

Gill led the Panthers with a 78, one shot ahead of Martin, to advance to the state tournament as well. She said the momentum of playing well at sectionals helped her in continuing her good play into regional competition.

"I really played my game and stuck in there," Gill said. "I struggled on some holes but still saved them with some pretty decent scores on the holes. I did my best to focus. I think my game is starting to click pretty well. I just feel blessed to be playing good golf right now. Last week gave me a lot more confidence."

Western golf coach Seven Hoppes said he will depend on sophomores like Gill to lead the Panthers back to regionals next year and give them a good shot of reaching the state tournament as a team.

"We played a lot of good golf [Saturday]," Hoppes said. "It's such an advantage for my young team to play all of these state-ranked teams. We've got three kids coming back off this team and some younger kids coming in. We expect to be there next year. These young kids are going to be motivated and our goal will be to get to the state finals. That's always our goal."

Kokomo's Lucy Mavrick shot a 102 and Taylor's Daysi Jarvis shot a 104.

Lake Central won the team title with a score of 325, followed by Valparaiso's 330 and Crown Point's 336. Lafayette Jeff's Samantha Hatter was the medalist, shooting a 71.

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