Area golfers close seasons at rainy East Noble Regional

KENDALLVILLE — A trio of area golfers finished out their seasons as the weather nearly derailed the East Noble Girls Golf Regional Saturday.
Plymouth’s Emily Berger shot a 98, while Triton’s Sydney Gochenour carded a 97, and Culver Girls Academy’s Mackenzie Toth shot a 99 in the persistent drizzle at Noble Hawk.
Led by Heidi Morganthaler’s round of 78, NorthWood found itself in contention to advance with a 368 as lightning delayed the regional tilt for several hours, and darkness eventually forced the suspension of play with several teams set to resume their rounds today.
Berger closed out her junior season with a 98 after advancing in the first individual spot out of the Warsaw Sectional a week ago.
“We had a great week of practice with Emily between Pat Bailey and I,” said Plymouth Head Girls Golf Coach Jack Kinney. “Everything went really good, but unfortunately tournament jitters can get to you a little bit and I think Emily was feeling it a little bit coming to regional without a team with her. She had some points where she really did some great things, had some nice pars, and she had some points where maybe she forgot some of the fundamentals that we’ve taught her. But overall, I think it was a great learning experience for her, and we’re really proud of the way that she hung in there today.”
Gochenour and Toth both got off to strong starts but struggled on the back side at Noble Hawk to come in at 97 and 99, respectively.
“The front side was her best round of the year, a 44. Then she makes birdie on 10, but then she had a three-hole stretch where she takes six for a triple bogey, then makes 10 on I think a par 5, and then makes eight. Take those three holes out, and she had a great day,” said Triton Head Coach Jack Carpenter of Gochenour.
“She had a great front nine, hit the ball straight, made good putts, got up and down. So a good experience on the front nine, but the back side kind of just did her in.”
“She played well on the front nine. That’s the best nine she’s shot all year,” said CGA Head Coach Fred Haase of Toth. “She had 43. She had eight fives and a birdie on number six. The back nine she struggled. She had a ball out of bounds, one in the hazard and some balls in sand traps that were virtually unplayable.
“I’m happy with the way she played today. She’s driven the ball well, it’s just her short game’s been up and down today. The back nine is a little tighter than the front nine so she struggled here, but I’m happy with the way she played.”
Saturday’s regional provided a nice bookend to Gochenour’s career at Triton after she made the top three cut out of sectional with a 96.
“She knew she wasn’t going to move on from here,” said Carpenter. “She’s just not that caliber of player, but just to have the chance to move on and play regional her senior year, go out on one of the highest notes you can for her is great. Such a quiet girl, unassuming, no arrogance or anything at all from her. She’s just a good girl to have on the team as a senior to be a leader. It’s a good way to finish up.”
While Gochenour closes out her high school career, Toth and CGA are hoping the East Noble tourney was the first of many regional trips for the Lady Eagle freshman.
“She was playing number four and she’s the one that made it out of sectional, so obviously she’s improved over the season,” Haase said. “She can hit the ball fairly well; I think she probably drives it 215 or 220, so I think she’s got some potential to be a really good player.”
Berger’s berth Saturday was something of a consolation prize for the Lady Pilgrims, who led at the turn a week prior at Warsaw before giving up their lead on the back side to finish in fourth place, just six strokes shy of advancing as a team.
“For the season as a whole, honestly, I think we overachieved in some areas,” said Kinney. “We came up with a dual meet/ tri meet record of 10-6 with a couple rain-outs so we could very well have been 12-6. I was proud of that. We’re always striving for higher goals and so we were disappointed that we didn’t get out of sectionals. That hurt honestly, but to have Emily get out and advance was a great bonus for us, and we’re just looking forward to next year.”
Berger’s round was nearly nullified by lightning delays as meet officials suspended play while she set up for her second shot on the 18th hole.
Fortunately, more than half of the teams at the tourney were able to complete their rounds to make Saturday’s results official with the rest of the field to finish up today. If less than half the field had finished, the scores would have been wiped and the entire field would have had to do it over again.
“The weather delay was really a problem today for all the teams. Not so much for us, but when you’re on the 18th fairway and they blow the horn and your kid’s only got four or five more strokes and she’s done with her day and we’re on our way to the restaurant to have supper, that makes it tough,” Kinney said. “Then every time that we thought we were getting out lightning would strike again and we’d have to just wait for another half hour. Unfortunately now because of the way the rest of the field is going to play, it changes the way the girls were playing, the way the scoring was. That’s unfortunate but that’s golf. You just have to adapt and change and take what nature gives you and move on.”
NorthWood trails East Noble’s 366 by two strokes and frontrunner Fairfield’s 343 as the tourney resumes today. Morganthaler led the Panthers with a 78, while Kathryn Adams and Emily Myers shot 95 and 96, respectively, and Rachel Beebe shot a 99.