MONTGOMERY, Ind. – This moment was years in the making for Castle High School’s girls’ golf program.
The No. 2 Knights shot a 296 at Country Oaks to claim their first regional championship since 2011. Castle had four of the tournament’s top five scores and broke the school record for a regional.
This team, ranked near the top of the poll all season, was the overwhelming favorite. He still won by nearly 50 moves.
“It’s an incredible score,” said Castle coach Luke Richison. “They were players who played their game. They knew what they had to do. They stuck to the game plan. They played it safe and did well.
The top three teams and two individuals from non-progressing teams have earned IHSAA State Championship berths next weekend at Prairie View. Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s regional.
Castle is a legitimate contender for the state title
It could have been supposed to go into the weekend. But following this performance and this score, there is no doubt who will be one of the favorites next week.
The Knights fell low in the lineup. Lydia Bauersfeld and Ashley Kirkland both shot 72 to match the low round of the day – more on them later – while Hailey Kirkland and Sami Lawrence both shot 76. Even Laney Bauersfeld would have faced an 84 from fifth place.
They avoided high scores. They found their place and gladly accepted the leaves. It’s hard to lose when you don’t make mistakes.
After:Castle’s sectional title marked a changing of the guard in women’s golf
“Our program is not what they expect of us,” said Ashley Kirkland. “We weren’t supposed to be anything, so we come here and shoot the scores we do. We have big plans for the rest of the season.
The 296 was the seventh-highest regional score in IHSAA tournament history. It was also a better move than Castle’s top contender in the next stage. No. 1 Carmel posted a 297 at Battle Ground Golf Club near Lafayette. They are different courses with different but comparable conditions when you consider the distance covered by Country Oaks on Saturday.
Only six players on the field beat 80. Four of them were Knights.
Bauersfeld and Kirkland deserved medals
It was embarrassing. It took longer than expected. But they were two talented players who were hitting exceptional golf shots at his heart. Bauersfeld and Kirkland would have been worthy champions.
After the round, the two were sent back to the 18th tee for a sudden-death playoff. Both hit the fairway and the green. Both putts for par. So they repeated the process.
Bauersfeld finally earned the first individual par honor at par-5 No. 1, the third hole of the playoffs. Kirkland continued his approach long and passed the hole well.
“I’m proud of the heart they both showed in those playoffs,” Richison said. “From a manager’s perspective, we’re going to make a Castle player win no matter what. Those two put a lot of passion into those few holes. I love seeing that drive between them.
It could be huge for Bauersfeld in the future. It was the first playoff title of his high school career after close finishes last year. She didn’t miss a fairway or green in the extra three holes.
“I’ve never been in a big playoff like this with a bunch of people watching,” Bauersfeld said. “As it was my last year, I really wanted to win. But we really don’t care who the lowest round is. It could come from any one of us.
It was also further proof of Kirkland’s quality. She was SIAC champion at Sultan’s Run and individual medalist at Fendrich the last two weekends. The second was not afraid of the situation.
“I loved every second,” Kirkland said. “Even though I lost. It was fun. That’s what I worked for. Even if I lose, I know what to do next time.
Gibson Southern showed that every shot counts
Kristen Harpenau could only describe the mood as “unnerving”. A fitting phrase considering how close Gibson Southern is to the end of its season.
The Titans took the team’s last spot at Prairie View with a third-place 355. That actually tied Jasper but Gibson Southern won on a fifth-scoring tiebreaker. The Titans got a 97. The Wildcats got a 98.
The team knew they were third at the turn but didn’t expect the script to play out the way it did.
“We knew we had a good shot at it,” Harpenau said. “I didn’t know how much and I don’t think the girls do either. Coming to see these scores was shocking. We are delighted and rather excited.
Madilyn Sperling led the Titans with an 85, followed by Haley Hughes (87), Vanessa Schmitt (88) and Adryauna Redden (95). Katelyn Walker had the deciding 97 to send Gibson Southern to the state championship. It will be the first trip since 2019 when the Titans finished 14th.
Only one member of the formation (Schmitt) played in this team. The program is consolidating itself as one of the best in the region.
“I can’t take credit for the program since this is our first year doing this,” Harpenau said. “There is a lot of talent in our team. They are all working very hard to keep it going. To (Vanessa) stepping back into her senior year feels like a proud mom moment.
A senior duo will end in style
For Trinity Dubbs of South Knox, this will be her third trip to Carmel. For Emma Ruxer of Jasper, this will be her first. Both showed the talent needed to play the last weekend of the season.
Dubbs and Ruxer won the individual state championship tickets. Only two have advanced this year following the addition of a sixth regional. In previous years, five people from non-scaling teams earned spots.
Dubbs came close to claiming the top prize before putting in misfortunes and an errant tee shot set him back on the final holes. The South Knox eldest still shot a 75 to earn another trip to the state. She finished tied for 44th last year.
“It means a lot because it’s my last year,” Dubbs said. “I want to prove to myself that a girl from a small town can go to a big world. It’s fun to have one more ride and show what I actually have. I thought about it too hard ( towards the end) I lost it to a few shots but was able to get it back.
Ruxer would have gladly traded her individual spot for her teammates to join her. But the senior put the Wildcats in position to succeed with a 79. Ruxer only started playing golf a few years ago. She will now finish on the big stage against the best in the state.
“I wouldn’t have thought it was my freshman year,” Ruxer said. “It’s so cool. I felt pretty confident for the first nine and had a few bumps on my back. After my last hole, I didn’t think I would be there. My skills showed today .
SIAC performed well
Even with just one team and one individual up, the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference had a glorious day at Country Oaks.
Jasper finished fourth by a single shot. Most of the team also returns, including second Addie Dart (84). Mater Dei returns four of his five starters — junior Grace Rohleder led the Wildcats with an 89 — after a sixth-place finish 379. Memorial was seventh at 386 and will be anchored by a pair of strong comebacks next fall.
North, the reigning two-time state champion, also performed well with senior Emma Seits and sophomore Kiley Standring both squarely in the mix. Seits shot an 81 to finish a spot while Standring posted an 85. Vincennes Lincoln junior Macy Sexton finished with a 98 on his third trip to the regional.
Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on Twitter @kylesokeland.