Cats, Raiders begin bringing out bestSeptember 2, 2016
By WYATT L. STAYNER
HUNTINGBURG — Dalie Wibbeler didn’t see her best shot of the day.
When the Southridge junior struck an 80-yard birdie chip shot on hole No. 6 at Huntinburg Country Club during Southridge’s match Thursday against Jasper, her back was turned. While oblivious of the ball rolling into the hole, Wibbeler heard the aftermath of what she couldn’t see. Cheers and applause let her know the result, an outcome Wibbeler was too happy about to be upset about missing.
“I almost cried,” Wibbeler said. “I had to hold back tears.”
Wibbeler recorded the Raiders’ low score Thursday (47) and her best total of the season. Some of that score can be attributed to a trick first-year Raider coach Tom Collins taught her. In the past, Wibbeler has struggled with slicing or hooking the ball. To straighten our her shot, Collins placed three head covers around her in practice, so she’d know if her swing was going too far back, too far wide or too far in. Last summer, Collins used the technique on himself to stop hooking the ball. He’s since used it on his wife and multiple Raiders. The results showed Thursday, even in a loss to Jasper, as Southridge posted a season-best 210, falling short of Jasper’s 170.
“It took (Wibbeler) a while to get used to that and I told her, ‘You’re not going to hurt your club or anything, but it’s going to tell you where your swing path is,’” Collins said. “It’s kind of like a field goal in football. She’s got to swing the club right through straight so that the ball will go straight. They sell all kinds of little devices for stuff like that, but you can just throw down a soft head cover.”
Thursday’s perfect temperatures were matched by a gamut of emotions that ran from Wibbeler’s near-tears to Jasper senior Mady Horney’s deep dive into her own head. Horney, who still scored a 46 and tied for her team’s fourth-best score, was disappointed in her performance and felt like she let that disappointment linger.
“It just gets all in my head and stuff happens,” Horney said. “Sometimes you just play not so well. It’s a head game.”
Horney usually looks to teammates to help her out of the funk. Jasper’s six varsity golfers will do things as simple as throw peace signs when passing each other on the golf course to slightly more involved words of encouragement such as: “Pick yourself up. Pick your head up. You know you got this.”
“Once you get down in that slump, it’s hard to get back out sometimes,” Horney said. “I didn’t even really pass some of my teammates today, so I think I needed to pass them a couple times.”
That might be because, as Collins noted, golf is more of a team sport, especially at the high school level, than some may notice. Collins implemented a new practice strategy this week, letting his team scrimmage rounds against each other. He felt his girls needed a change, and the in-house competition made practice more fun while not sacrificing opportunity for improvement.
“They were really helping each other,” Collins said of the scrimmages. “Sometimes when you go out and practice, you’re just kind of on your own because golf is kind of an individual thing. It really built them up as a team and made them work together and cheer each other on. It was a good week of practice and it showed tonight.”
Junior Olivia Mundy, who notched a 48 Thursday, was worried she’d be nervous in the match against Jasper because of its tradition, as the Cats have won seven of the last nine sectionals. Nerves didn’t bother Mundy when she conquered a par-5 on hole No. 1 at HCC, which has had her number in practice. This time she was able to direct the ball to the side of a lake that generally swallows her shot.
“I hit it in the lake like almost every time I play here,” joked Mundy, whose score was followed by teammates Morgan Stapleton (56), Macie Marley (59), Megan Buechler (62) and Lauren Springer (62).
As for the Wildcats, coach Phil Olinger has been saying he’d like to see more scores in the low 40s. His players obliged Thursday, as Maddie Wagner (40) was the medalist and Gillian Blessinger and Hannah Welp both turned in 42s, while Haley Schroeder shot a 46 and Hannah Erny offered a 50.
“We’re not bad,” Olinger said. “I wouldn’t say we are behind, but I still want us to be a little more comfortable with scoring lower.”
Two weeks from Saturday, the Cats will be looking to reclaim the sectional title after Gibson Southern knocked them off last season. Olinger said improvements to his team’s short game are necessary to achieve the mission. Chipping and putting are “not the most fun thing to work on, but it’s definitely part of the game that has to be worked on if you want to become a better golfer and take it to that next level and advance to regional,” Olinger said. “A lot of people think they’re a better golfer if they can hit the ball further, but in an 18-hole round of golf, you only hit your driver maybe 14 times. Whereas any shot that’s 100 yards in, that’s over half your game right there.”
These playoffs will be the last of Horney’s Jasper career. The nostalgia and feelings have been tempered recently with the season in full swing, but “it’s kicking in that I’m a senior and these people aren’t going to be with me much longer,” she said.
“The first practice really got to me,” Horney added. “I know it’s time to start growing up and I’m definitely going to miss this team. It’s not even a team, it’s a family. I’m going miss it.”
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