The Henry County girls' golf team started this season with high expectations with the success the squad has enjoyed in recent seasons, and so far the Ladycats have not disappointed those high standards. Already, the Ladycats have tied the school record with a 172 for nine holes, freshman Allison Vaughn recently broke the individual school record with an impressive 36, the Cats trailed the top team in their new region by just five strokes in an early-season match, and they continue to show a promising future with some young and talented players following in the footsteps laid out before them.
The Ladycats have the depth this season to finally get over the hump and advance to the state tournament for the first time, but they still struggle with consistent play from all the golfers.
"We've played some good matches, and some bad matches; we've had some players play really good and then play really bad. The thing with this team is you just never know," said Kathy Peyton, who has coached the team since 2004.
With the top five golfers playing in varsity matches, including the prestigious post-season tournaments, and the top four counting for the team score, it will be a struggle to narrow down Henry's lineup to just five. Right now, Vaughn is the top golfer based on an average score, while she is closely followed by seniors Kara Blair, Kaitlin Blair and Leah Christian, junior Samantha Woods and sixth grader Mackenzie Peyton. Also providing added depth are freshmen Emily Hensley, McKenzie Clifford and Taylor Stanley, along with a number of middle school players with bright futures on the greens.
"Our No. 5 golfer can jump up and be our No. 1 golfer at any time," Peyton said. "This team definitely has a lot of depth - we can easily go six deep."In its first nine-hole home match of the season, Henry defeated Whitefield Academy, 186-225, at the Henry County Country Club Aug. 14. Kara Blair shot a 44, Peyton shot a 46, Vaughn shot a 47, Christian shot a 49, Woods shot a 50, Kaitlin Blair shot a 50 and Hensley shot a 52 as the Ladycats came away with the easy 39-stroke victory.
The Ladycats were back in action last Monday when they hosted Sacred Heart a team that is one of the favorites to win the district tournament. Peyton finished with a team-high 42, Kara shot a 44, Christian shot a 45, Vaughn shot a 46, Hensley shot a 51, Woods shot a 52, Kaitlin shot a 54, Stanley shot 62 and Clifford shot a 65. As a team, Henry finished with a 177 just five strokes behind Sacred Heart, who had two golfers in the 30s with a 37 and 39.
"I was really pleased with that," Peyton said of her team's performance, which sets up a showdown when the district tournament rolls around in late September. "Overall, I thought our team did better, but its hard to compete against someone that has two players in the 30s like that."
The following day, the Ladycats were back on the greens at Owen County, where they took a 172-181 win. The 172 tied the school record from the previous year, while Vaughn set a new school mark for nine holes with her 36 - two strokes better than the 38 Nikki Chilton shot in 2004. For the freshman, it was a one-over par, and she was followed by teammates Christian (44), Woods (45), Peyton (47), Kara (48), Kaitlin (50) and Hensley (54).
Henry then played at Assumption Thursday, bringing back to New Castle a 178-225 win. This time around, Woods led Henry with a 42, while Vaughn shot a 43, Kara shot a 44, Peyton shot a 45, Christian shot a 46, Hensley shot a 49 and Kaitlin shot a 50.
Henry closed out the week Saturday at the Nelson County Invitation. The Ladcyats decided just to take what Peyton calls "next year's team," leaving the three seniors at home. Vaughn shot a 85 for 18 holes, while Woods shot a 89, Peyton shot a 94, Hensley shot a 102 and Stanley shot a 125. As a team, Henry finished second with 370, just five strokes behind Taylor County. Individually, Vaughn finished second overall and Woods finished sixth.
"They didn't want any really strong teams there, so we just took next years team," Peyton explained. "To go down there and finish second with a 370 was great. The course was tough with a hard back nine with trees and hazards. I thought our players did very well."
After the busy and hectic week, Henry will play in the 8th Region All 'A' Classic Tournament for the first time this Wednesday. This is the first year HCHS is eligible to play in the All 'A' Classic since 1999, and the first time a HC team will ever play in the annual golf tournament.
"We look to go there Wednesday and play well," Peyton said. "We have high hopes for this team."
The biggest threat to the Ladycats will be Owen County - a team they defeated by nine strokes last week. The top team from each region, along with the top five golfers not on the qualifying team, will advance to the All "A" Classic State Tournament next month.