FORT WAYNE – Three northeast Indiana golfers will make their state finals debut today and Saturday.
Warsaw senior Nikki LaLonde, Blackhawk Christian junior Jaycee Bunner and South Adams sophomore Sydney Willis will be in the field trying to tame The Legends of Indiana, Franklin.
It’s another two days to play competitively, Willis said. It is a great opportunity to be able to compete in the state finals. I feel the golf course sets up nicely for me. I am going to approach it like an ordinary round of golf. I’m feeling confident and am going to enjoy every minute of it.
All three qualified for state as individuals at Saturday’s East Noble Regional at Noble Hawk Golf Links. Willis had a 4-over 74, Bunner 75 and LaLonde a 76.
I do care how I play, and I am going to try to get rid of this slice that I have, LaLonde said Saturday. It’s going to be a relaxed week, and it is going to be fun.
Warsaw missed out on advancing as a team with a fourth-place finish at the regional.
The Tigers’ 341 was three strokes from Rochester (338), the last of the three advancing teams. Penn won with a 297. NorthWood was second with a 335.
My expectations for Nikki at state is to go play her best, said Chris LaLonde, Warsaw’s coach and Nikki’s mother.
I would like to see her around 80 or better. She is going to go play the course and let it happen. That has been our game plan since our conference (match).
Due to a change made last year by the IHSAA, state finals participants get to play both rounds, taking the pressure out of having to qualify for the second day.
I am excited to go down there and play because I haven’t been to state before. I expect to shoot pretty low, Bunner said.
I have played the course a lot in different (summer) tournaments, so I am not too worried about that. It does help me get used to the course. It is a challenging course, but I have played it enough and I know where not to hit it.
I really like two-day tournaments because that’s what I usually play in. I feel like there’s less pressure in a two-day tournament.
Only five players who played at state last year will return this season and the top two from last year graduated and will not be in the field.
Former Chesterton golfer Kelly Grassel won with a two-day total of 137, while ex-East Noble standout Katie Sharp finished second at 139.