HC girls finish tied for third at Fifth Region golf tourney

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By Tommie Kendall

With hopes of a top-two finish at the Fifth Region girls' golf tournament Monday, and a season-best score of 334, the Henry County Ladycats were not happy with the 380 they shot on the 18-hole course at Weisinger Golf Course in Shelbyville. But it was still good enough to finish tied for third, which was the best finish in school history for a program that was started in 1998.

Shelby County finished first with a 351, Sacred Heart finished second with a 352 and Henry and Oldham tied for third with a 380 each. The top two teams advanced to the state tournament, along with the top four golfers not on a qualifying team. Henry's previous best finishes included two fourth-place outings- in 2004 and 2007.

Henry made the switch from the Sixth Region to the Fifth Region in the state's new alignment this year, which might have led to the non-qualifying outcome. The performance was bittersweet for the Cats, who were hoping to advance to state for the first time but had to settle with third and the best outing on record.

"We just didn't play well today," Henry coach Kathy Peyton said after returning from the regional tournament Monday night. "We had been playing well coming into the tournament, well enough to shoot better than a 380. I thought the course was very tough and that made the difference. I thought we could have played so much better though. We can't be too disappointed to finish third, but we know we could have done a lot better."

With dry conditions, which left the roughs even rougher than normal, the golfers had a hard time playing the ball when it ventured outside of the fairways. All of the golfers, minus the top players, had a hard time on the Weisinger course, Peyton said.

"The rough was very dry, and so if you hit it off the fairways you were in trouble," she said. "The girls knew that if they didn't hit it straight they would have problems, so it put pressure on them. They tried to place their shots and it didn't work."

Henry also had a hard time putting the ball, with a few three, four and even five putts, Peyton said.

One player that did not find the course difficult was Shelby's Candice Wiley, a former state champion who was playing on her home course and won by eight strokes with an impressive 1-under-par 71. She even sank a hole-in-one on the par-3, 112-yard No. 7, which only added to an already dominating performance. Assumption's Sammi Smith carded a 76 to finish second, while North Oldham's Margot Ricks (84), Ballard's Gina Nuzzo (90) and Mercy's Lauren Von Ohlen (90) also qualified for state individually as the first four players not on the two qualifying teams - Shelby or Sacred Heart. Sacred Heart was led by Lindsey Gahm with a 79.

As for the Ladycats, their top golfers were Samantha Woods and Kaitlin Blair with a 92 apiece, which tied them for sixth in the individual standings. Allison Vaughn and Leah Christian shot a 98 apiece and Kara Blair finished with a 110.

"It seemed like we got off to a bad start and never really recovered from it," Peyton said. "But with a third-place finish, I guess we're moving up."

To go along with their previous two fourth-place showings at regionals and this year's third, the Ladycats have had three golfers barely miss an individual qualifying spot for the state tournament. Nikki Chilton in 2004, Eden Pryor in 2006 and Kara Blair in 2007 all missed advancing by just one place. This year, Kaitlin Blair and Woods missed it by two.

The 2008 squad also broke school records for nine holes (172) and 18 holes (334), won a fifth straight North Central Kentucky Conference championship, an 8th Region All "A" Classic title and finished fifth at the All "A" State Tournament in the first year they were eligible to compete. Individually, to go along with the team's record-setting season, Vaughn broke the school record for nine holes with a 36 and Christian broke the mark for 18 holes with a 76.

When the Ladycats take to the greens again, they will be without three seniors from this year's team: the Blair twins who have been playing since the sixth grade, and Christian who transferred to HCHS last fall as a junior. Next year, they will return freshman Vaughn and junior Woods, along with the freshmen trio of Emily Hensley, Taylor Stanley and McKenzie Clifford, and sixth-grader Mackenzie Peyton. It will be an impressive lineup that should continue to point the Cats in the right direction.

"Overall, I thought it was a great year for us," Peyton said. "And I think we can possibly be as strong next season. We'll just have to wait and see."

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