By KEVIN HARRIS
FLOYDS KNOBS —
There is one moment that best defines Floyd Central junior Eliza Hudson’s 2012 season.
That moment came on the final hole at the Evansville Memorial Regional on Sept. 22 at Eagle Valley Golf Course in Evansville.
Hudson needed to sink a 35-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole (the Highlander started on the back nine) to keep her hopes alive of earning her first berth in the IHSAA State Finals.
After disappointingly making double bogey and bogey on the previous two holes, Hudson fought through the adversity and nailed the long putt to finish with a 77.
At the end of the day, Hudson’s 77 was good enough to advance her to the state finals. She was one of the five individuals on non-advancing teams at regional to qualify for state.
“The most memorable part of the season was the regional,” Hudson said. “It was one of the best rounds for me of the season and making that putt made it exciting.”
That dramatic putt enabled Hudson to earn another accomplishment — the News and Tribune Area Player of the Year award. Hudson was the only player from the Clark-Floyd area to reach the state finals.
“This is a huge accomplishment for me,” Hudson said.
Floyd Central coach Lenny Hartlage hopes Hudson’s honor will motivate the rest of his players to step up their games.
“I think it will trickle down to her teammates and get them to play at the next level,” Hartlage said. “I’m very proud to be her coach, but I’m more proud of how hard she’s worked. There is a lot more in store for her in the future.”
Hudson finished 47th at the state finals, which took place Sept. 28-29 at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. She fired a two-round score of 167 (23-over-par), shooting a 14-over 86 in the first round and a 9-over 81 in the final 18 holes.
“The first day did not go as well as I wanted to. I think the nerves and excitement played a role in that,” Hudson said. “But the second day, I was proud of what I did.”
Hudson learned a lot about playing at state. The main lesson from her first state finals experience was to believe in herself and her game.
“I learned you have to be confident, to trust yourself and trust your swing,” Hudson said. “That’s what had gotten me that far.”
Hartlage, who was the IHSAA boys’ golf individual champion in 1983, thinks the state finals showed his No. 1 player that she is only a few strokes away from being as good as some of the state’s top players.
“She’s now got a taste of it. She now might think that she can play with these girls,” Hartlage said. “She played fine [at state], but she made her mistakes. She realizes what her weaknesses are. She needs to think that if I keep working hard, I can be one of the best players in the state.”
Hudson credits Hartlage for helping her get to the state finals.
“His coaching has been key, especially this season,” Hudson said. “He’s such a dedicated coach. He’s a confidence booster for me and he always supports me.”
Hartlage says Hudson has the potential to play college golf at the higher levels.
“She can play at the [NCAA] Division I or Division II levels. She has another year to improve,” Hartlage said.
Hudson and her teammates already have high hopes for next season, as the entire squad is expected to be back. Hudson hopes the rest of her teammates can join her in next season’s state finals field.
“Our expectations are high next year,” Hudson said. “We hope to improve greatly and practice, practice, practice. Hopefully, that will get us to state.”
Hudson shot an 82 in both the Hoosier Hills Conference meet on Sept. 8 at Covered Bridge Golf Club in Sellersburg and the New Albany Sectional on Sept. 15 at Valley View Golf Club in Floyds Knobs. She finished in a three-way tie for fifth at the HHC and a two-way deadlock for fourth at sectional.
2012 ALL-AREA GIRLS’ GOLF TEAM
Eliza Hudson, Floyd Central, Jr. (Area Player of the Year)
Quincy Cooper, Clarksville, Sr.
Sydney Shrebtienko, Christian Academy, Sr.
Morgan Stanley, Floyd Central, So.
Heidi Steinert, New Albany, So.
Bailey Biggs, New Albany, Sr.
Ashley Dankovich, Floyd Central, Jr.
Scarlett Hartlage, Floyd Central, Jr.
Jessica Ingram, Floyd Central, Fr.
Haley Roth, New Albany, Jr.
Morgan Boone, Providence, Sr.
Franci Burton, New Albany, So.
Christina Fink, Borden, Jr.
Madison Kane, Jeffersonville, Jr.
Charlotte Seaton, Silver Creek, Fr.
• COACH OF THE YEAR: Rick Belcher, New Albany.
• HONORABLE MENTION: Marissa Knoebel, Charlestown, Jr.; Chloe Watts, New Albany, Fr.