The Sacred Heart Academy girls golf team isn’t ready to concede anything, but there could be a changing of the guard during this weekend’s state tournament.
The Valkyries have won four straight state championships but will take a young team with just one senior into the Leachman Buick-GMC-Cadillac/KHSAA State Tournament at Bowling Green Country Club.
Meanwhile, Elizabethtown has won seven of 10 tournaments it’s entered this season and is considered the favorite this weekend.
“They’re the best team I’ve seen in, probably, forever,” Sacred Heart coach Leslie Bender said of E’town. “I had a couple that were close, but they’re really good.”
Led by No. 1-ranked Elizabethtown, the top five teams in the Kentucky Golf Coaches Association’s state ranking reached the state tournament, with No. 2 Madison Central, No. 3 Paul Dunbar, No. 4 Sacred Heart and No. 5 Scott County in the field.
E’town coach Kim Hartlage knows her team has a target on its back and is hoping a tough regular-season schedule has it prepared for this weekend.
“Our motto all season was, ‘Confidence creates champions,’” Hartlage said. “That being said, we haven’t done anything special this year. I’m sure Sacred Heart would like to have five in a row, and every other team here would like that special moment of winning a championship.”
E’town enters with an average score of 308 this season and bettered that with a 303 in winning last week’s Region Three Tournament.
The Panthers are led by two seniors who have committed to NCAA Division I schools — Lauren Hartlage (University of Louisville) and Rebecca Black (North Carolina-Asheville). Juniors Sarah Beth Hundley and Keista Elder and sophomore Sarah Hinton round out the squad.
“If we can play to our season average, I think our chances are strong,” Kim Hartlage said.
Sacred Heart posted a 317 in winning the Region Five Tournament. The Valkyries’ roster includes senior Sydney Smith, junior Morgan Tinsley, sophomores Ryan Bender and Erin Rowland and freshman Taylor Edlin. Bender won the Region Five individual title with a 76.
Shelby County, the Region Five runner-up, will be the other Louisville-area team in the State Tournament. Junior Lilly Young was the regional runner-up to Bender with a 78.
Other individuals from the Louisville area who qualified were Collins senior Claire Watts, Manual sophomore Lucy Suo and South Oldham freshman Molly Jo Bebelaar.
Only four of the top individuals from last year’s State Tournament return this year — E’town’s Hartlage (second place), Madison Central’s Tristyn Nowlin (fourth), Paducah Tilghman’s Teri Doss (tied eighth) and Henry Clay’s Leslie Ginter (tied eighth).
Marshall County’s Bailey Tyree and Owensboro’s Ke’Asha Phillips are other top contenders.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and [email protected]
GIRLS GOLF STATE TOURNAMENT
* When: Play starts at 8 a.m. EDT Friday and 9 a.m. EDT Saturday.
* Where: Bowling Green Country Club.
* Defending champion: Sacred Heart.