Lady Panthers golf

TEE TIME — The Lady Panthers golf team is off to a good start this season, earning high marks early on.

Western High School’s girls’ golf team found recent triumphs on the green early this season.

After teeing off the season earlier this month, the Lady Panthers has made an impression on the course thus far, placing second in the West Lafayette Invitational, first in the Benton Central Invitational, and third in the Twin Lakes Invitational.

“I’m pleased with the beginning of the season,” Head Coach Steve Hoppes said. “But we have a long way to go.”

Hoppes has been the girls’ golf coach since the program first began at Western in 1991. He has seen many years of growth and achievement throughout the years, including winning a state title in 2001 and runner-up in 2002. Since then, the Lady Panthers has had an above-average team, qualifying for state numerous times.

Ten girls make up the varsity team this year, with the top five consisting of two juniors, a sophomore, a freshman, and a senior. Number-one and number-two golfers, juniors Ella Williamson and Mady Smith, participated in summer golf tournaments to prepare for the upcoming season.

Hoppes credited this dedication to their accomplishments so far this season, such as placing second (Williamson) and third (Smith) as individuals at the Benton Central Invitational, and their considerable improvement from last season.

“If you want to become a golfer, you just can’t play during golf season. Unfortunately, there are so many girls at every school that think, ‘I can play golf during golf season and be OK.’ That’s not going to do it. Mady and Ella both played a lot of summer tournaments and summer golf, and they have improved a bunch since last year. They’re carrying it (the team) this year, and they’re doing a very good job of it so far. It’s early in the season, but Mady and Ella have overdone my expectations.”

Last season, the Lady Panthers came in second in the conference, second in sectionals, and placed sixth in regionals. Top three teams qualify for the state finals, and the girls missed by five strokes. The goal every year for the Western girls is to qualify for the state finals. With 18 teams competing in regionals now, compared to the previous 12 teams, the competition to make it to the state finals is much tougher.

The team hopes to win the conference title against the Tipton Blue Devils, which is favored to win this season. Additionally, the team is preparing to win the sectional title back from the Kokomo Wildkats which defeated the Panthers last year.

The Western girls will compete next at Rochester High School this Saturday, Aug. 24, at 7:30 a.m.