‘Twinning’ tendencies boost Jasper’s power trioSeptember 22, 2016
By MICHAEL HUGHES
When the sectional scores were announced last Saturday, three Jasper golfers shared a familiar sense of disbelief. After the trio tied for first at the Big Eight Conference meet a week ago, Maddie Wagner, Gillian Blessinger and Haley Schroeder’s names occupied the top three spots on the sectional leaderboard.
Since Wagner started playing golf in fifth grade, she said the three always seem to end up on the same level, even after one might creep ahead of the others for a short period.
Those three, plus Mady Horney and Hannah Welp, will represent Jasper on Saturday at Country Oaks Golf Club in Montgomery to compete in a regional field that includes two-time defending state champion Evansville North.
“I think it’s kind of fun and kind of cool because we say we’re ‘twinning,’” Wagner said. “We’re twinning with our scores. I think it’s all fun and cool that we shoot the same because it’s good for me and good for the team, too.”
Competing alongside the Wildcats will be Southridge junior Olivia Mundy and Heritage Hills senior Vicki Nelson, who both qualified individually.
The Wildcats will show up to regional after winning the conference title and sectional crowns in rather easy fashion thanks to the individual performances of their top three golfers. The sectional crown came with a 38-stroke cushion and the conference title came with 20 strokes to spare over a rain-abbreviated nine holes.
Wagner led the group with an 80 at sectional, while Blessinger and Schroeder followed at 85 and 86, respectively. At the conference meet, the three tied for first after shooting identical 43s.
“We just like sticking next to each other,” Schroeder said. “At Big Eight we all tied for first, it’s just so weird. I don’t know, but we just keep coming in the top three. It’s freaky.”
Three times this season, Blessinger and Wagner have fired identical marks atop the Jasper scorecard. Even though they’re always on different spots on the course, Wagner said there are instances she doesn’t worry about missing a shot because she knows Blessinger and Schroeder are putting up low scores of their own.
The trio also use one another as a form of motivation. It’s all friendly, but there’s still bragging rights involved.
“It’s almost like a sisterly love-hate type of thing,” Wagner said. “It’s like, ‘I hate you for shooting as good as me, but then I love you for shooting as good as me.’ It’s fun.”
The Wildcats will face a stiffer test in Montgomery. Evansville North set a state-record score for a sectional with a 290 last weekend. While the Wildcats claimed the top three spots in their sectional, the Huskies claimed five of the top six. Last year, the three teams to advance out of regional — Evansville North, Evansville Memorial and Bloomington South — finished first, fourth and seventh in the state finals.
“It’s a bunch of teams who are good and get girls shooting around the same thing,” Blessinger said. “If we can get low, we’ll have a chance.”
For Wagner, the goal goes a tad further than shooting low, since she’s trying to qualify for her first state finals. The two ways that could happen are if Jasper finishes as one of the top three teams at regional, or if Wagner finishes as one of the top five golfers outside of the state-qualifying teams.
Qualifying ahead of three top-10 finishers at last year’s state finals isn’t an easy task. Last year, Jasper finished 14th of 18 teams at regional, but that also happened after runner-up finishes in the conference and sectional. The Wildcats will need to do that while ignoring the golfers around them.
“Hopefully they’ll look past that, play their game and not worry about any of the mental stuff that would make them distracted,” Jasper coach Phil Olinger said. “They’re just going to have to do what they did (at sectional), honestly. Enjoy it, have fun and worry about their own scores.”
Staying close has already helped Jasper into the regional. Now, the Wildcat trio is hoping the unusual trend continues for at least another weekend.
“I could see us being close together and I’d like us being close together,” Blessinger said. “Hopefully we can get a little lower and closer together. Maybe I’ll shoot around what Maddie shot and then we’ll be closer together.”
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