Cats, Raiders find levity in harsh holesSeptember 1, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
JASPER — After finishing her third hole on the back nine Thursday at Buffalo Trace Golf Course, Jasper’s Brynn Leinenbach had a brief chat with her coach, Jan Tellstrom, before approaching the menacing par-3 hole No. 14 — a hole Tellstrom says “Freddy Krueger must have built this himself.”
“Have fun and go hit a hole-in-one out there,” Tellstrom told Leinenbach before she headed to the tee.
At the time Leinenbach didn’t think too much of it, but when her shot landed just inches from the hole and was a slight breeze from going in, she thought to herself, Is my coach psychic?
“Jan was like, ‘Go do something spectacular,’ and I was like, ‘There’s just no way that’s going to happen,’” Leinenbach said. “And then after I hit my shot I heard the parents cheer and the girls I was playing with were like ‘It’s a hole-in-one!’ and I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t think so.’ Turns out it wasn’t but it was pretty close.”
Leinenbach still birdied the hole to help Jasper (198) overcome Southridge (220) on a back nine that’s been known to give golfers of all experience levels fits. Gillian Blessinger led all Wildcats with a 45 followed by Maddie Wagner’s 48, Leinenbach’s 51, Hannah Welp’s 54, Meredith Heim’s 58 and Madeline Springer’s 62. Olivia Mundy’s 53 guided the Raiders, and she was followed by Baileigh Schneider (54), Dalie Wibbeler (56), Morgan Stapleton (57) and Macie Marley (58).
Blessinger picked up medalist distinction for the first time this season and said she felt more comfortable on the back nine, thanks to some challenges of the hypothetical variety.
“Me and my dad will come here and play, and he’ll just pick some random holes and throw a ball down and say, ‘All right, if this was sectional what would you do?’ Blessinger said. “I just tried to keep calm on those holes; I always knew that no matter what, I would have a chance to make the next putt. I just had to stay mentally tough.”
For both Wagner and Blessinger, hole No. 17 seemed to be the kindest as they both were able to knock off birdies before heading to the final hole.
“Maddie hit an approach shot and her dad was all cheering, and then I hit a shot and no one said anything so that made me kind of nervous because I thought that I had did OK,” Blessinger said. “It turns out my shot was only about 5 feet away and after watching Maddie sink her putt in from about 8 feet away, I knew I could make mine.”
Of all the holes that seemed to cause hiccups, it was No. 14 that stuck out the most — a par 3 that has a fairly straight shot to the hole but once it gets on the green, it’s bound to just roll right back down to the rough if you don’t put it in the right place.
“I honestly think it’s the toughest back nine on any course in southern Indiana,” Southridge coach Tom Collins said. “But especially that hole — I would say you could poll a thousand golfers that play at Buffalo Trace and ask them about that hole and they would all say it’s the hardest they’ve ever seen. It’s just punishment.”
The Raiders were under the impression they would be playing the front nine but upon their arrival to Buffalo Trace, they were treated to a little bit of a surprise.
Collins said his girls were “deflated a bit” when they learned they’d be playing the back nine instead, but for Wibbeler, she tried to forget about the hole where she had to hit out of the muck and splattered herself with mud and instead took a more positive approach with the holes.
“We just have to take this as a practice for sectional and prepare,” Wibbeler said. “I feel like my putting was a little rough tonight, the greens felt a little funny and chipping was a little off. But I think that if we can take this and fix the little things, then we’ll be fine.”
Even if struggles persist, Wibbeler can commiserate with some of the girls who’ve become friendly rivals throughout the season. Those chats with opposing players Wibbeler sees several times throughout the season can go a long way to keeping confidence propped up.
“You don’t have to worry about someone judging you because we all know that everyone started off stinking at golf,” Wibbeler said with a laugh. “It makes the match so much easier so it doesn’t feel so awkward with empty silence.”
In fact, Blessinger said she and Schneider have almost become “twins” from hanging out at the golf course so much together.
“Yeah, we both love Callaway and don’t like Titleist,” a grinning Blessinger said about their taste in golf gear. “It makes competition nice when you’re really good friends with the person because, yeah, you’re competing but it makes the round feel much more relaxed.”
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