By ADAM PRUIETT
Staying composed was getting to be a monumental task for Morgan Stanley on Saturday at Champions Pointe Golf Club. The Floyd Central standout admitted to failing miserably at keeping those pesky jitters in check.
Who could blame her? After all, not only was she on the verge of a career-best round that could include the unprecedented breaking of 70, she was clearly in striking distance of capturing medalist honors at the prestigious Fuzzy Zoeller Invitational.
“I was shaking for about six holes because I knew where I was,” Stanley said. “I didn’t want to mess it up because I knew I still had time.”
She didn’t mess it up. Not even close. Stanley shot a sizzling 3-under 67 to secure the individual title at Southern Indiana’s premier high school girls’ golfing event preceding sectional play.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Stanley, who tallied four birdies. “I’ve always been in the 70s, but this is the first time breaking 70, so it’s exciting. This is my first time breaking 70 at any course.”
As a team, Floyd Central came in second place with 307. Evansville North won the 16-team tournament with a 299 after setting a school record for the second time this season. All four Huskies shot in the 70s.
“Everybody played their hearts out,” said Taylor Howerton, who paced North with a 70. “Our goal was three [in the 70s], but we got four so we beat our goal. That was great. We were all so pumped. We always do well at this tournament, but we finally did our best.”
Four teams from the area competed in the invitational. In addition to Floyd Central, Providence placed eighth with a 379, New Albany tied for 10th with a 390 and Silver Creek was 13th with a 398.
Stanley birdied the second-to-last hole and finished off her 67 with a par. She didn’t do anything special leading into the tournament, “just my usual routine.” She even had to overcome a bogey on the first hole. It turned out to be her only one of the day.
“I was OK,” Stanley said. “I knew it was the first hole, and I was going to be a little rusty. I just kept it up and picked it up over the next few holes.”
While Stanley boasted the area’s most notable round, New Albany’s Heidi Steinert claimed the most memorable shot. On the 11th hole, from 128 yards out, she sank a hole-in-one.
“Where the pin location was, there was only one club that I could hit to that pin location no matter the yardage,” Steinert explained. “If it’s longer or shorter, there’s only one club that gets me to that spot.”
Her analysis was spot-on. The club she referenced was a 7-iron. Steinert was tipped off that her shot found the hole by a rowdy celebration in the background.
“Everybody up at the green started screaming,” said Steinert, who had the ball stashed in her pocket after the tournament and will have it placed in a display case. “I didn’t know how to react. I just kind of stood there. They were like, ‘Scream or something.’ I said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’
“I went up there and they all started taking pictures. It still hasn’t hit me that it happened. I think once I start getting text messages and stuff from people, it will start hitting me.”
While it was a once-in-a-lifetime shot, Steinert refused to say she had a once-in-a-lifetime round.
“I’ve always thought that the day I broke 80 in a round I would be satisfied, but I know how many shots I left out there, even with the hole-in-one. I’m not satisfied,” she said. “I think that’s a good thing for me.”
Floyd Central’s runner-up finish also included a 74 by Eliza Hudson, an 80 from Scarlett Hartlage and an 86 from Jessica Ingram.
“Our team has worked extremely hard over the whole summer and even the winter, working really hard to get our scores low,” Stanley said. “I have a great team and they’re really supportive, and I’m really happy we did as well as we did today.”
Colleen Geldermann led Providence with a 90. The Pioneers all broke 100, with Mary Ann Fitzpatrick following Geldermann at 95, Brooklin Grantz shooting a 96 and Alexa Wilson posting a 98.
“I really think things are finally starting to click,” Geldermann said. “I know last year I wasn’t breaking 100 either. I know this is the first time a lot of the girls on the team broke 100. It’s pretty good. Hopefully if things keep going well, we’ll be breaking 90.”
New Albany, the two-time defending sectional champion, had Haley Roth follow Steinert at 85, while Chloe Watts shot 105 and Taylor Frame 122.
“It’s early in the season, but we are kind of struggling,” Steinert said. “It’s not that the talent isn’t there. We’re struggling getting used to tournaments and starting the whole season out.
“We definitely want to get better as the season goes along. We don’t have the pressure of being expected to win sectionals. We want to start getting better as a team. We want to make it to regionals and definitely get our team scores lower.”
Charlotte Seaton led Silver Creek with a 90 and Lily Smith followed closely at 92. Liv Schmidt added a 97 and Emily Christman and Hannah McGrath both had 119s.
The Funny Zoeller Invitational provided an early barometer for the teams to see where they are at and where they need to be. Even Floyd Central, the sectional favorite, believes it has a lot of work to do before the postseason begins.
“We know we still have a lot of tournaments to play,” Stanley said. “Doing this well early in the season, we know there’s only time for improvement. We’re excited to have this well of a score this early.”
FUZZY ZOELLER INVITATIONAL
At Champions Pointe Golf Club, Henryville
Team scores: Evansville North 299, Floyd Central 307, Columbus North 329, Madison 339, Jasper 341, Evansville Memorial 352, Bedford North Lawrence 358, Providence 379, Franklin 389, Salem 390, New Albany 390, Jennings County 395, Silver Creek 398, Seymour 400, Corydon Central 403, Scottsburg 458.
Medalist: Morgan Stanley (FC) 67.
Floyd Central: Hudson 74, Stanley 67, Hartlage 80, Ingram 86, Dankovich 89.
Providence: Geldemann 90, Wilson 98, Kruer 118, Grantz 96, Fitzpatrick 95.
New Albany: Steinert 78, Roth 85, Watts 105, Frame 122, Long 130.
Silver Creek: Seaton 90, Smith 92, Schmidt 97, Christman 119, McGrath 119.