Girls golf teams were allowed to start competing on Monday, kicking off the first high school sport of the fall season. The season always seems to go by in a flash: many teams compete in a third of their events before classes resume, and sectional tournaments are scheduled for Sept. 17-20.
The state finals will be held on Oct. 1 and 2. Just one local team made the trip down to Carmel's Prairie View Golf Club in 2020, but perhaps a larger contingent of area golfers will make the trek down this fall.
Madison Dabagia, Homestead: The Spartans senior took fifth place at the state finals in 2020, but also placed second in the state as a sophomore and fourth as a freshman. What has she done lately? In June, she won a playoff for the Girls Indiana Junior PGA Championship in Noblesville to qualify for the Girls Junior PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.
Simone Senk, Homestead: Senk finished just one stroke behind Dabagia at last year's state finals to finish sixth in the state. Senk and Dabagia tied for medalist honors at the 2020 East Noble Regional after both shot rounds of 66 (4-under par) at Noble Hawk.
Marissa GeRue, Carroll: The Charger sophomore was the only non-Homestead golfer to reach the state finals last season after shooting a 78 at the East Noble regional as a freshman.
Lillie Cone, DeKalb: Now a junior, Cone was the individual medalist at the 2020 Angola Sectional, carding an 85 at Trine's Zollner Golf Course.
Katie Baker, Fremont: Baker tied for second at last year's Angola Sectional as a junior.
Homestead: The Spartans were the state runners-up in 2020 and had four of the five best scores at the East Noble Regional and all five of the lowest scores at the Norwell Sectional. Homestead only lost one of their varsity players, Megan Yoder, to graduation. The Spartans start ranked No. 4 in the IHSGCA preseason poll.
Carroll: The Chargers finished third at the East Noble Sectional last season and were sixth at the East Noble Regional, making them the top local regional finisher after Homestead. Carroll was an honorable mention in the coaches preseason poll.
Columbia City: The Eagles went 13-1 in head-to-head matchups last season, including 7-0 against NE8 opponents. They then won their second straight NE8 tournament title and finished second at the East Noble sectional. Katie Hoag, the 2020 NE8 individual medalist, has graduated and Mackensy Mabie transferred to West Noble last winter, but all-conference honorees Abby Pequignot and Lindsey McCammon are among the returnees.
Fremont: The Eagles claimed their first-ever sectional title in girls golf at the Angola Sectional last year, beating Bishop Dwenger by three strokes. Five of six key players return from last year's squad, so there could be more firsts in store.
Snider: The Panthers were the SAC champions in 2020, ending a streak of private-school winners that started with Concordia in 2009. They placed third in the Angola sectional to advance to the East Noble Regional.
New coach for the Spartans: Jeff Jehl led Homestead to its first girls state title in 2019 – the first state title for any girls golf team in the city of Fort Wayne. This year, though, the Spartans will be led by another state champion coach, Rod Parker, the girls basketball coach who led Homestead to a state title in 2016-2017.
Control of the SAC: Snider and individual medalist Skylar Whitman of Northrop ended a private-school streak of SAC championship titles that started in 2009 (for the team title) and 2011 (for individuals). Will perennial contender Bishop Dwenger or another private school regain the upper hand in 2021?
Looking afield: Local golf teams faced a major roadblock in qualifying for the state tournament in the form of NorthWood, which took second place at the East Noble Regional, Concord (third) and Penn (fourth). Four members of the Concord team that competed at the state finals have graduated, but four NorthWood players should return for the 2021 season.
A state individual champion: Although Homestead has enjoyed success at the state finals in recent years, the one honor they haven't captured is the individual state championship. The last winner from Fort Wayne is Lauren Gant of Bishop Dwenger in 2000-01.
Regional Records: Homestead currently holds three of the six lowest girls regional scores in IHSAA history, including the all-time record of 275 set at Noble Hawk in 2020. (Penn's 297, recorded at Noble Hawk in 2013, sits at seventh all-time.) Could we be in for more regional records at Noble Hawk this year?