FORT WAYNE – One day after winning medalist honors at the Norwell girls golf sectional last week, Blackhawk Christian sophomore Jaycee Bunner played a practice round at Cobblestone, the host site for the East Noble Regional on Saturday.
Bunner was trying to get ready for the twists and turns the course offers. The question, though, is will she be ready for the talented field at the expanded regional?
Because of the IHSAA’s reformatting of the state tournament, there will be two extra sectionals sending teams to Cobblestone, including fourth-ranked Penn and junior Kari Bellville. The Kingsmen finished as the state runners-up last year and Bellville finished in a tie for sixth place.
Bellville is one of the top junior golfers in the state and has got an exemption to play at a pro event this summer in South Bend. She won last week’s Penn Sectional at Knollwood with a 73.
East Noble’s got a pretty good golfer in senior Katie Sharp, who was 11th at the state finals last year and second as a sophomore. Sharp won last week’s East Noble Sectional at Noble Hawk by 15 strokes with a 65.
The top three teams and top five low individuals excluding those individuals who advance with a team will advance to the state finals next weekend. Because of the expanded field, this is a change from previous years.
I am planning on working on my driver and hitting it right down the middle, Bunner said about playing Cobblestone. The competition will be good, and I like playing against good competition. I feel like it makes me play better if I am playing with really good (players).
There were seven regionals last year, but that has been whittled to five this season.
Getting through to state will be more difficult as a team as well. Homestead won the Norwell Sectional with a 346, the team’s second-best score of the season. Homestead won last year’s regional team title with a 331 but graduated its top two players from a team that failed to make the cut at state. If the Spartans advance out of the regional this year, they are guaranteed to play two rounds because of the new IHSAA format.
We really just want to get in that top three spot and make a run at state again this year, Homestead’s No. 2 golfer Emily Olson said after leading the Spartans with an 82 at last week’s Norwell Sectional. It is going to be tougher with Penn there and some other teams.
People weren’t expecting a lot out of us this year because our No. 1 and No. 2 graduated, but we have been shooting similar scores and other players have stepped up. It’s not a big difference. You just play your own game and don’t worry about who you are playing with.