Golf season is officially underway.
It began with several invitationals around the state Monday. Locally, the first big event is Saturday's New Albany Invitational at Valley View Golf Club.
With that being said, here are five big questions entering the season.
1. CAN FLOYD CENTRAL WIN ANOTHER SECTIONAL TITLE?
Is the sky blue? Yes.
The Highlanders return three of their top five players from a team that won its sixth straight sectional title by 37 shots last year. Back to lead the way are sophomore Sophie Cook and junior Zoe Hoehn, who finished as the individual medalist and runner-up at the Corydon Central Sectional last September.
Floyd, which finished sixth at the Washington Regional last year, started the season with a strong showing at the Bloomington South Invitational on Monday. The Highlanders finished sixth behind five teams ranked in the preseason Top 20 — No. 1 and reigning state champ Evansville North, No. 2 Carmel, No. 5 Columbus North, No. 6 Westfield and No. 11 Evansville Memorial.
2. FLOYD CENTRAL IS THE TOP TEAM IN THE AREA, SO WHO'S THE SECOND-BEST SQUAD?
Probably Providence. The Pioneers, who finished third at the sectional — albeit 69 shots behind Floyd — return three of their top five and six of their top eight players from last year led by senior Kennedy Allender.
3. COULD HENRYVILLE MAKE A RUN AT A SECTIONAL TITLE?
The Hornets won their first sectional title in 2017, but fell to fourth in the Madison Sectional last year after some big graduation losses. Henryville returns four of its top five players from a team that finished 32 shots behind sectional champion Jennings County and 14 behind third-place Southwestern.
The Hornets will be led by seniors Allison Horn and Olivia Guernsey and junior Taytum Easton. Easton tied for fifth individually at the sectional last year to qualify for the regional.
4. WHICH TEAMS ARE ON THE RISE?
In addition to Henryville, Jeffersonville and New Albany are two of the top picks.
The Red Devils bring back four of their five players from the squad that finished fourth at the Corydon Sectional last year.
The Bulldogs, who finished one shot behind Jeff at the sectional last September, also return four of their top five players from last season. Plus, they've added a sextet of freshmen.
Additionally, Charlestown and Clarksville should also be improved.
5. WHICH INDIVIDUALS COULD CONTEND FOR SPOTS IN THE REGIONAL?
In addition to any of the players already mentioned, if their teams don't advance, several could qualify for the regional if their squad does not.
Included among those are the Jeffersonville junior duo of Allison Kane and Baylee Lawler. Kane qualified for the regional as an individual last year, while Lawler was an alternate.
Others in the mix should be New Washington senior Katlyn Price, along with New Albany sophomore Kennedy Lee and Silver Creek sophomore Jacy Stricker. Lee qualified for the regional last year as a freshman.
• HEAD COACH: Kim Carroll (15th season).
• HOME COURSE: Elk Run.
• LAST SEASON: Did not field a team at sectional.
• KEY LOSSES: Brianna McCutcheon, McKenna Harbin, Maddisen Smith.
• RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Kylan Burke (Sr.), Lizzie Hill (Sr.), Andrea McCoy (Sr.), Juliana Roberts (Jr.), Gracie Moore (So.).
• OUTLOOK: Carroll returns four of her top five players from last year's squad and nine in all, to go along with five newcomers.
• CARROLL SAYS: "Most of the girls have very little golf experience and are learning the game. We will be young, with only three seniors, and the rest are sophomores and freshmen. I expect to improve individually, as well as a team by the end of the season. Our goal is to lower our scores throughout the season."
• HEAD COACH: Tosha Embry (seventh season).
• HOME COURSE: Wooded View.
• LAST SEASON: Did not have a full team at sectional.
• KEY LOSSES: None.
• RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Sara Vaughn (Jr.); Summer Neal (So.); Mia Vega-Isaac (So.).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: Tanner Page (Sr.); Karena Knight (Jr.); Emily Kaiser (So.).
• OUTLOOK: The Generals return three of their top five players from last season.
• EMBRY SAYS: "The girls have put in time over the spring and summer and their efforts are really starting to pay off. They are all pretty new to the game, but have a lot of potential if they keep up the hard work and dedication.”
• HEAD COACH: Kara Collier (sixth season).
• HOME COURSE: Valley View.
• LAST SEASON: Won Corydon Central Sectional; finished sixth at Washington Regional.
• KEY LOSSES: Morgan Spanopoulos, Emma Hausz, Francesca Hartlage.
• RETURNING PLAYERS: Sydney Juliot (Sr.), Zoe Hoehn (Jr.), Sophie Cook (So.).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: Haleigh Cullins (Jr.), Audrey Giovenco (So.), Jenna Schmidt (So.).
• OUTLOOK: The Highlanders return three of their five players — including Cook and Hoehn, who finished 1-2 at the sectional — from their sectional-winning squad. Cook averaged 84 for 18-hole tournaments while Hoehn averaged 85 and Juliot 87. Hartlage, a senior who finished third in the sectional last year, decided not to play golf to concentrate on her studies this year, according to Collier. Cullins, Giovenco and Schmidt will likely vie to make up the Highlanders' fourth and fifth positions.
• COLLIER SAYS: "I am very excited for the upcoming season. We have a lot of young talent coming up to support our skilled returning players this year, and they have worked hard over the summer to improve their games. Our girls have practiced and played in a good number of tournaments, and I look for that to pay off as the season progresses. The sky is the limit for these girls, and I can’t wait to see them reach their team and individual goals."
• HEAD COACH: Robin Embry (16th season).
• HOME COURSE: Champions Pointe.
• LAST SEASON: Finished fourth at the Madison Sectional.
• KEY LOSS: Ally Gardner.
• RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Allison Horn (Sr.), Olivia Guernsey (Sr.), Taytum Easton (Jr.), Sydney Kleinert (Jr.).
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Annie Spicer (Jr.); Alli Thompson (Jr.).
• OUTLOOK: The Hornets return four of their top five players from a team that missed a regional berth by 14 shots. Leading the way is Horn, who led Henryville with a 50.7 9-hole average last season, and Easton, who qualified for the regional as an individual last year.
• EMBRY SAYS: "We have a good group of young ladies. Hopefully they've worked on their game a bit over the summer and have high expectations for this season. If each improve a few strokes — or more — over last season, we'll card some good scores. Most importantly, I'm sure they'll represent our community, school, team, their families and themselves very well. We're looking forward to the season starting."
• HEAD COACH: Dusty Corum (ninth season).
• HOME COURSE: Elk Run.
• LAST SEASON: Finished fourth at Corydon Central Sectional.
• KEY LOSS: None.
• RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Haley Foster (Sr.), Allison Kane (Jr.), Abigail Peabody (Jr.), Baylee Lawler (Jr.), Chloe Ortuno (So.).
• OUTLOOK: The Red Devils return four of their five players from last season's sectional lineup led by Kane, who qualified for the regional as an individual. "We should be a competitive team this year with having multiple golfers competing to fill the fourth and fifth spots," Corum said.
• CORUM SAYS: "This season our goal is to advance to the regionals as a team.”
• HEAD COACH: Rick Belcher (second season).
• HOME COURSE: Valley View.
• LAST SEASON: Finished fifth at Corydon Central Sectional.
• KEY LOSS: Alyssa Rummage.
• RETURNING PLAYERS: Jessica Orr (Sr.), Kennedy Lee (So.), Kate Daniel (So.), Ella Daily (So.)
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: Sarah Jefferson (Fr.), Libby Bogdon (Fr.), Madison Daniel (Fr.), Avery Carroll (Fr.), Kimberlyn Keller (Fr.), Kylie Stufflebean (Fr.).
• OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs could contend for a top-three spot at sectional. They return four of their five sectional golfers from the team that finished one shot behind Jeffersonville last year. Leading the way is Lee, who qualified for the regional as an individual last year. She averaged 46.5 shots per nine-hole round last year. The team, however, was dealt a blow when Rummage, the team's second low scorer in the sectional, moved away.
• BELCHER SAYS: "We will definitely be more competitive as a team this year. I look to have 10 girls this year with the addition of six freshmen who will immediately have an impact. We will still be very young with only one senior, but will be much stronger team-wise than we have been in a while. Many of the girls are doing all of the right things to get better, and they’re coachable."
• HEAD COACH: Ken Allender (fourth season with girls, 10th overall).
• HOME COURSE: Covered Bridge.
• LAST SEASON: Finished third at Corydon Central Sectional; 18th at Washington Regional.
• KEY LOSSES: Ellie Mayberry, Alex Henderson.
• KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Kennedy Allender (Sr.), Jessica Hartlage (Sr.), Kasey Lockard (Sr.), Elle O’Bannon (Sr.), Reese Bottorff (Jr.), Lilly Chapman (Jr.).
• OUTLOOK: The Pioneers return three of their five players, and six of their top eight, from the team that made it to the regional. The young Allender is entering her fourth year on the varsity, while Bottorff is entering her third and Chapman, who has "made great improvements," according to Coach Allender, her second.
• ALLENDER SAYS: "With returning six of our top eight players we should have a competitive bunch by committee."
• HEAD COACH: Matt Graston (fourth season).
• HOME COURSE: Elk Run.
• LAST SEASON: Finished sixth in the Corydon Central Sectional.
• KEY LOSS: Sydni Sorg.
• RETURNING PLAYERS: Morgan Gargano (Jr.), Olivia Burton (Jr.), Jacy Stricker (So.), Olivia Beaver (Sr.).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMER: Lana Dobson (Fr.).
• OUTLOOK: The Dragons return four of their top five players led by Stricker, who shot the team's low score at sectional and had a nine-hole average of 45.
• GRASTON SAYS: “We are still an inexperienced team when it comes to matches, but we're excited to get things rolling. Jacy got a lot of tournament experience in the offseason on the Kentucky Junior PGA and has worked pretty hard at it. She should fire some low scores this year. Morgan and both Olivias just need more experience. Their game has really come around and we’re anxious for them to get more time on the course. They made big improvements last year from the beginning to the end of the year so hopefully they can do the same this year.”
NOTE: Christian Academy is not fielding a team this season while Borden (junior Natalie Lewis) and New Washington (senior Katlyn Price) have one player each.