ST. JOHN | Tears of joy flowed down Kiana Jongsma's face when she learned she qualified for Friday's first round of the state finals.
Though the Indians shot a 361 team score to finish fourth, failing to qualify as a team, L.C. will be represented at state by two individuals. Jongsma shot an 84 at the Lafayette Jeff Regional to qualify, while teammate Kylie Shoemake survived a playoff involving two others golfers to card an 88 and join Jongsma at the Legends Golf Club in Franklin on Friday.
"My drives and my putting saved me a lot," Jongsma said of her 84 at the regional. "I tried playing the wind."
Jongsma's 84 was tied with Valparaiso's Jennifer Gough for the sixth-best finish in the regional.
The 361 was one of Lake Central's best performances of the season, and while they missed out on qualifying as a team, L.C. coach Chris Rossiano acknowledges how great of a performance it was for his team.
"It was one of our better performances of the year, especially with the pressure of being paired up with two of the top teams in the state (Lafayette Jeff and Chesterton)," Rossiano said. "Chesterton had a reigning state champion (Kelly Grassel) so obviously they were the favorite coming in."
Perhaps the best improvement Jongsma has late in the season is her putting. Rossiano said that even this season, it has ruined some rounds for her.
"She's still got a long way to go putting, but it's gotten drastically better," Rossiano said. "Just overall, visualizing the course and shots, I think she has more confidence and can trust the shots she needs to hit."
In total, there are 13 golfers from the Duneland Athletic Conference competing at state, including Chesterton and Valparaiso's teams, Crown Point's Tiffany Curtis, Shoemake and Jongsma. For Jongsma, playing against that tough competition several times during a season has strengthened her game.
"It just helps me see what I can feed off of and learn to get better, just by playing with them," she said.
As a junior now, Jongsma has gained more confidence in her game.
"Basically, everyone believed in me," she said. "Even if I do have bad days, I know what I have to do to get better."