WINONA LAKE — A 19th hole playoff is nerve-wracking enough, but facing off against one of your own teammates is even worse.
Culver Girls Academy freshman Mackenzie Toth beat out both teammate Samantha Seibel and Plymouth’s Lauren Rearick to earn the last individual berth out of the Warsaw Girls Golf Sectional Saturday.
Both Seibel and Rearick hit into the water hazard on 18 at Stonehenge, and Toth one-putted after getting on in six to beat out her two competitors by a stroke, breaking a three-way tie at 101 and earning the last of three individual tickets out to next Saturday’s East Noble Regional.
“Sammie is my opponent but she’s also my teammate,” said Toth. “It’s really stressful. We’re both here to support each other, yet we both kind of want to win, and we both want what’s best for our team and for someone on the team to get out of sectional.”
Also earning individual berths out were Plymouth’s Emily Berger at 92 and Triton’s Sydney Gochenour at 98 as golfers struggled with penalty strokes throughout the round at challenging Stonehenge.
“I told Sydney and Hannah if they could shoot between 95 and 100, that I thought they might have a chance to get out,” said Triton Head Girls Golf Coach Jack Carpenter. “Some years, this course is probably the hardest they’re going to play on the way to the state final. (Gochenour) played well; she played smart today, too. She didn’t gamble with the water. She kind of worked her way around it.”
“I was just coming in trying to have fun and relax,” Gochenour said. “I’m a senior so I was just trying to make the last match fun. To be honest, I didn’t really expect to move on, so it’s a great feeling.”
Like the rest of the Lady Pilgrims’ squad, Berger struggled on the back nine Saturday, opening with three straight sixes on 10, 11 and 12 before a pep talk from PHS assistant coach Pat Bailey calmed her down.
“I started off really strong, and then I kind of struggled on the back,” said Berger. “I took three sixes in a row, and I thought ‘Oh, well there goes my game.’ But then Pat came up and talked to me and said ‘You know what, do this for yourself.’ At the end on 16, 17 and 18 I went bogey, par, par to get where I needed to do.”
While Berger was able to salvage a 92, and Rearick toughed out a bad case of kidney stones at the meet to give herself a chance in the playoff with a 101, Plymouth bowed out of the team season with a disappointing fourth-place finish after leading the field with champion Warsaw at the turn.
“We felt really good about our chances and our position; we were tied for first after nine,” said Plymouth head coach Jack Kinney. “Our top four girls shot a 189, but unfortunately sectionals aren’t nine hole scores, they’re 18 hole scores, and everything dramatically changed when we went to the back nine.”
While Plymouth struggled on the backside, CGA’s inexperienced squad got off to a bumpy start to finish its season in fifth with a 425.
“We just shot too high on the front to really have a chance,” said CGA head coach Fred Haase. “We have kids without a lot of experience, and they made mistakes and this is a penal golf course.”
Triton closed out the year in seventh, meanwhile with a 448.
• WARSAW GIRLS GOLF SECTIONAL
At Winona Lake
Team scores: 1. Warsaw 386, 2. Rochester 297, 3. Wawasee 397, 4. Plymouth 403, 5. Culver Girls Academy 425, 6. Columbia City 447, 7. Triton 448, 8. Whitko 504, 9. Tippecanoe Valley 542.
Top 3 individuals advancing without a team: 1. Emily Berger (Plymouth) 92, 2. Sydney Gochenour (Triton) 96, 3. Mackenzie Toth (CGA) 101
PLYMOUTH (403): Mandy McPherron 107, Emily Berger 92, Lauren Rearick 101, Kelly Henderson 110, Emily Denney 103
CGA (425): Samantha Seibel 101, Helen Hansen 120, Kiira Vazales 103, Mackenzie Toth 101, Maureen Reed 129
TRITON (448): Sydney Gochenour 96, Hannah Jennings 104, Sabrina Kaufman 118, Melanie Clemens 138, Katlyn Watson 130