VALPARAISO | How tough was the top of this Valparaiso Sectional?
The defending individual state girls golf champion had to go two playoff holes before she added another medalist performance to her impressive prep career.
Chesterton senior Kelly Grassel, who was eight spots ahead of Valparaiso junior Harley Dubsky at state last fall, played 20 holes with Dubsky on Saturday at Valparaiso Country Club. In their second stab at VCC No. 2, Grassel notched a par and Dubsky went one putt past, and their smile-filled day was done.
Their identical 2-over scores of 74 added to the close showing in the team standings, where Grassel’s Trojans won their sixth consecutive team title by five strokes, 343-348, over the Vikings.
“We were close the whole time,” said Grassel, who birdied No. 17 to take a one-stroke lead but bogeyed the 18th as Dubsky parred both.
“We’re good friends, and she’s a great player. Playing together, it relaxes us and makes us play better to try to keep up with the other one.”
Defending state champ Grassel had a huge chip-in on No. 7 to go up one, but a double bogey on 8 put Dubsky in control temporarily.
“It was just back and forth all day,” Dubsky said. “(On the second playoff hole) I just had a tricky putt. That green’s not the easiest. It’s all a slope.”
Grassel and Dubsky spent the day chit-chatting about movies, school, plans for next year, etc. There were never any competitive glares.
“We know we’ve got to cherish the moments, but it hasn’t really hit us yet,” Dubsky said. “It’s weird because we’ve been playing together so long. I don’t think it’ll hit us until state.”
Both teams appear headed that way as the next-best team to qualify for next week’s regional was Portage with 436, led by Katelyn Bohlin’s 103.
The difference between sectional champ and runner-up was Chesterton’s No. 5 golfer, freshman Grace Davis, whose 97 counted in the score.
Chesterton No. 3 Nicole Dutz was six strokes better than Valpo’s No. 3, which helped nullify the 82 by Valpo No. 2 Jennifer Gough, which was by far the third-best score of the day.
“Grace parred the last hole after a nice shot on 17,” Chesterton coach Dale Hewitt said. “It was a tough day, and the greens were fast, but we finished strong and we’re proud of that.
“We didn’t have an exceptional day. It was a decent day, but we’re going to have to step it up at the next level.”
Hobart senior Aimee Pope led the individual regional qualifiers on non-advancing teams. She parred the first hole and recovered from back-to-back-to-back double bogeys on the back nine with four straight pars and finished with a 90.
“This year I’ve been focusing on chipping and putting and staying calm out there,” Pope said. “I told myself I could do it every time. I’ve had really good drives and a good iron game and a lot of support from my parents. I’m really excited.”
Boone Grove’s Abbey Lukas (100) and Knox’s Sarah Coad (107) will join Pope at the regional, which moves from LaPorte’s Beechwood Country Club to Lafayette’s Battle Ground.
“We love Beechwood,” Grassel said, “but everyone still has to play the same course.”