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The Central Hardin Lady Bruins had dominated the 3rd Region, but it appears a new team is ready to begin a new reign.
The Elizabethtown Lady Panthers ushered in a new era with a 46-stroke victory to win the region championship last year, their first since 2008.
“It’s E’town,” Central Hardin coach Chris Adams said. “We don’t have the horses to compete with what they have. They are loaded.”
Elizabethtown coach Kim Hartlage doesn’t mind being labeled the favorite, but she said the team can’t rest on its past accomplishments.
“I’m real excited about our team,” Hartlage said. “We’re further along than where I thought we’d be. We’re more prepared even though we’re young. And that’s good. We want to keep getting better. We have to keep the same mindset and focus. I have to keep the kids grounded, because this is a new year.”
Central Hardin has won eight of the last 10 tournaments. While Adams knowing dethroning Elizabethtown will be tough, he said the goal is still to make the state tournament, something they’ve achieved for 12 consecutive years.
“Once the girls are around the team, they know what’s expected,” Adams said. “We expect to be at the state tournament. That’s passed down from one team to the next. Getting to the state tournament is our goal every year.”
Besides Central Hardin and Elizabethtown, John Hardin, LaRue County and North Hardin will not field a full team, while Fort Knox is still searching for players.
The region tournament will be held Oct. 1 at South Park Country Club in Louisville.
CENTRAL HARDIN. Adams has been impressed with what he has seen from the Lady Bruins during preseason practices. Despite the loss of Amanda Smith, they should be in the mix once again for a state tournament berth.
“We’ve had several girls who worked hard,” Adams said. “We are ahead of where I thought we’d be or hoped we’d be. They have put in the time working on their games. So far, I’m pleasantly surprised by where we are.”
Juniors Erin Perkins and Madalaine Benedetti, senior Kelsea Hobbs and sophomore Grace Flanagan all have region experience, while sophomore Jordin Beger filled in for Hobbs in the state tournament. Junior Erin Kelley and eighth-grader Abbie Cross are also battling for a spot.
“The good thing about this team is they’re a close-knit bunch,” Adams said. “I know we lost Amanda, but I think they’ll share the leadership. Erin’s been here the longest, so it naturally falls on her. In practices and drills, they’re all pulling for each other. That’s what I’ve liked. They like each other and they want each other to do well to achieve our goals.”
ELIZABETHTOWN. The Lady Panthers return sophomores Rebecca Black and Lauren Hartlage and eighth-grader Sarah Hinton. Also back is freshman Sara Beth Hundley, who has region tournament experience.
Junior Madeline Vittitow and sophomore Peyton Lothery are vying for action, while junior Santina Warthen and fourth-grader Megan Grace Hundley are new to the program.
“I’ve been encouraged by everyone’s improvements,” Kim Hartlage said. “Rebecca and Lauren have had phenomenal summers, but they’re not the only ones. Sarah Hinton has really worked on her game. Sara Beth Hundley has made tremendous strides. Peyton has gotten better and so has Madeline.”
Although they have a number of returnees, the Lady Panthers graduated Ashley Hartlage and Mary-Chapin Snow. Kim Hartlage said they not only were instrumental for the team’s success on the course, but were role models off it.
“That’s the only thing I worry about,” Kim Hartlage said. “We don’t have any upperclassmen. I’ve talked to Lauren and Rebecca about that. They’re going to have to do more of that than they’ve done in the past. I think it’s something that will be shared. But that’s the only concern I may have.”
FORTKNOX. The Lady Eagles, who ended up eighth at last year’s region tournament, return two of their top three players. Back are freshman Shannon Brown and sophomore Jordan Almeida. Brown shot a 92 in last year’s region tournament to finish in the top 10.
“She played well in the region tournament last year,” Coach Kip Rambo said. “She’s one of the kids we started as a sixth-grader. It’s really important to start them early. She has really improved and worked hard. She’s bigger and stronger. She’s hitting it well. She has the potential to be a contender at the end of the season.”
Rambo said he hopes to have a full team, but probably won’t know for sure until school begins. Two other players from last year’s team could return. Rambo said they might not be back from summer vacation yet.
JOHN HARDIN. The Lady Bulldogs don’t have a golfer in the program, but Coach David Allan is hoping to find some players in hopes of resurrecting the team.
LARUECOUNTY. Coach Justin Craft said the Lady Hawks will not have a varsity team once again this year. While LaRue County has a number of young girls in the program, it will still be a couple of years before they are ready for varsity tournaments.
MEADECOUNTY. The Lady Waves finished fifth at last year’s region tournament in Coach Jana Davis’ first season. They could take a step forward this season as they should return four players with region experience.
Although they graduated Rachel Harreld, who had the team’s best score in the region, juniors Chelsea Lancaster and Rian Heibert and sophomores Karissa Hardesty and Kristen Bewley are back. Juniors Taylor Powers and Jessa Pollard and sophomore Abbie Heibert also should be competing for a spot.
NORTH HARDIN. The Lady Trojans graduated Lydia Gumm, who won the last five region titles and six of the last seven, and Sara Crutcher, who qualified for the state tournament as an individual last season.
Coach Nathan Quesenberry, who takes over the team from Greg Gumm, has only two golfers in the program. Sophomore Michaila Barren played in last year’s region tournament, while freshman Lauren Saltsman is new to the program.
“They work hard,” Quesenberry said. “They are getting better. They have improved from the first practice until now. I think if they continue working hard they can be competitive by the time the region tournament rolls around.”
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.