Last year the unusual suspects were again at the top of the region in Class 1A girls golf. Massac County won its fourth title in the last 12 years and Nashville finished in the top three for the fifth time in the last eight years.
In the meantime, Hamilton County freshman Kylee Vaughan made a big splash finishing tied 18th at the state finals.
“I feel like we can be very good,” said Massac County coach Laurie Glass. "It’s hard to replace Emma Korte and Lauren Coakley, but I think we can do pretty well this year. This group of girls, especially the sophomores, have worked hard all summer on their own.”
Massac County extended its streak of state championship appearances to 13 straight years by winning its third straight regional and 12th overall. The Lady Patriots won their second sectional title in the last three years and seventh during its run.
“I’ve got seven girls, so I don’t know who is not going to qualify, since you can only have six to travel,” Glass said. “The four that are coming back are going to be better and from the scores the sophomores put up this summer they are all really close to being good.”
Senior Millie Lawson is back along with senior Mady Blair, junior Madie Coakley and senior Madison Cunningham. At the state tournament Lawson led the Lady Patriots with a 12th place finish while Blair and Coakley finished tied for 36.
“Millie won regional and sectional last year for the second straight time,” Glass said. “She didn’t play her best at state and I would have liked to see her in the top 10, but, obviously, we had four good scores to win."
Glass has three sophomores hoping to break into the lineup in Lily Conkle, McKinley Korte and Alexis Frazine.
“All of the sophomores are working hard and I feel at least one of them is going to be in the top six,” Glass said. “Lily Conkle played some for us last year when Mady Blair was sick.”
Nashville, the 2013 state champion, finished third last year after coming in second the year before. The Hornettes also won their second straight regional title and seventh since 2009.
However, repeating this year may be more of a challenge for Coach Doug Kell after his top four players graduated, including his daughter Rachael, who finished tied for 13th. The only returners from his top six are juniors Sydney Gordon and Rylee White.
Hamilton County's Kylee Vaughan got off to a great start going undefeated during the regular season. She then won the regional title, but because of a mistake she finished third at the sectional to qualify for state.
“She’s played a lot of golf since she was five years old,” said her father and Hamilton County boys golf coach Barry Vaughan. “She then had a great freshman year winning the regional, the conference and all her meets and tournaments. However at the sectional, she was seven-over on the front nine and at the turn she told me something was wrong with her range finder and I found she had set it to meters instead of yards and after we fixed that she shot even par on the back.”
At state, Vaughan was in a tie for 25th place after the first day with a score of 82. On the second day, she shot 82 again to finish 164 overall, 15 strokes off the winning score.
“At state she had a bad putting weekend,” Vaughan said. “Earlier in the year she had shot 74 on that same course, but at state she had three three-puts the first day and seven the second day, so the way she played we were glad she came in at 18th. If she has shot 75-75 she would have ended up in the top five.”
Pinckneyville just missed earning its first berth at the state tournament by two strokes. The Lady Panthers return four of their top five golfers to make another run led by three seniors the Breslin twins, Megan and Sarah, who earned their second straight trip to the state finals as individuals last year, and Graci McDaniel.
“The fourth player always kills us and that’s been going on a couple years now, but hopefully that won’t happen this year,” said Pinckneyville coach Dan Breslin. “If it was just a three-person match we probably could have beat Massac County and Nashville. I think junior Kally Mayo is going to be an asset. We also have an opportunity to continue to develop the program with four freshmen.”
Megan has finished in the top eight at state the past two years improving from eighth to seventh. Sarah finished 22nd last year and 21st the year before and comes into the season on a roll having won the SIGA’s Players Cup and the Junior Golf Tour Championship over the weekend.
“Sarah and Megan had a strong summer playing in St. Louis and here and I expect them to average in the 30’s,” Breslin said. “Hopefully Graci can have a good year also. I would love to see Mayo come in and shoot in the 40’s. If she does that we have an opportunity to go to state.”
Murphysboro senior Hannah Gahagan returns after qualifying for state for the first time last year and finishing tied for 32.
Anna-Jonesboro finished ninth at the sectional and returns three of its top six golfers senior Emma Ray and juniors Hannah Hileman and Sydnie Ralls. Eldorado finished 11th at the sectional and returns four of its top six golfers senior Ashlyn Sizemore, junior Chloe Hopkins and sophomores Emma Wargel and Hannah Clark.