For the fourth time in five seasons, the Southmont girls’ golf team has qualified for the IHSAA Regional.
Freshman Addison Meadows, junior Stella Snook, and their senior teammates Bailey Barker, Taylor Grino, and Macie Shirk are hoping to make some noise at Smock Golf Course on Friday, when they tee off at one of the most competitive regionals in the state.
Mountie coach Bill Whalen says the regional qualification comes as no surprise, but how Southmont got there isn’t how anyone drew it up.
A second-place finish at last week’s sectional is believable as is Meadows’ medalist honors with a 1-over par score of 73, but the overall improvement of all five players has led to one of the most successful seasons in school history.
“The biggest surprise for this season, in my opinion, was the number of times we’ve beaten past records,” Grino said. “The biggest improvement for the returning players has definitely been having fun while getting better. Last year, we had a lot of fun, but we didn’t get as good as we could have. This year, we’re having a blast and we’re playing great.”
Both individual and team records set mostly by the 2020 senior class in the fall of 2019 have been shattered this season.
The Mounties fired a 160 at Oak Ridge in mid-August to break the 9-hole record, while their 341 at the sectional at Harrison Hills broke the 18-hole record. Meadows’ 73 is the 18-hole individual record, while her 34 (-1 under par) on Aug. 25 broke the individual record for 9-holes.
“I knew this team was going to be competitive but wasn’t sure they would be record breaking competitive as a team,” Whalen said. “Breaking the 2019’s 9 and 18 hole record is an accomplishment.”
Meadows entered her freshman year with high expectations, but it’s been the willingness of her older teammates to accept her as the top player that’s helped lead the team down a successful path.
“This success means a lot to me because it’s the first time I get to play with Macie Taylor and Bailey, I have never gotten to play with them until this year and now I am sad to see them go,” Meadows said.
Junior Stella Snook has been around the program since her freshman year, and knew this team would be tight-knit, but the overall support the Mounties have recieved has blown her and her teammates away.
"I knew our team would be close, but the crazy amount support from the team, our coaches and parents has been so amazing and suprised me," Snook said. "Our team has improved tremendously from last year and I am so happy about how far we have come this year."
After a disappointing fifth-place finish at the sectional last year, in which Shirk advanced to the regional as an individual with a 95 — the three returning seniors went to work.
“This summer I really wanted to work hard and be able to compete with the competition so I went out and played 4-5 times a week playing 9 or 18 holes,” Barker said. “I knew that I needed to be lower than my previous scores if I wanted to get better, and to win big events. I feel that this hard work has pushed me to do better and to be better for the team to get to this point.”
As a first-year golfer last season, Barker fired a 118 at the sectional. As a senior this season, she turned her hard work and practice into a 91. Grino turned her 110 into a 97 this season and Shirk dropped from a 95 to an 80.
But that came as no surprise. Shirk showed flashes of success as a junior last fall — but her consistency this season pushed Meadows for the No. 1 spot.
“My biggest surprise this season was shooting three 38s in a row and being medalist four times,” Shirk said. “I feel like all areas of my game have improved.”
And she’s looking forward to enjoying the regional round with her teammates.
“This means so much to me,” Shirk added. “After I made it out of sectional last year as an individual, I knew I wanted to go back to regional but with the team. We have a lot of fun together so I wanted to share the experience with them.”
Shirk has a goal to break 80 at Friday’s regional, while Meadows is expected to be right in the hunt for a state qualifying spot.
The top three teams and top five individuals not advancing with a team will qualify for the state finals. Center Grove fired a 320 last season to advance as the third-place team, while the individual cut-line was a 78.
“We will continue to have a score to hit,” Whalen said of Southmont’s goal. “We talked about what it would take to get out as a team. We know we will have to play perfect golf to have any chance. This is a very tough regional with several of the top 20 teams in the state competing. We know we will have to cut our sectional score by about 25 strokes to have any chance of moving on.”