BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Ava Thomas and Olivia Bailey
CARMEL — Making the IHSAA girls golf state finals brought out the largest crowds yet to see Rochester sophomore Olivia Bailey and junior Ava Thomas.
Bailey shot a 74 on Friday’s first round at Prairie View Golf Club and is in a tie for sixth place out of 108 golfers. She is six strokes behind leader Samantha Brown of Westfield.
Thomas shot an 89 and is in a tie for 63rd place.
“I had my dad’s siblings and my grandparents and my aunt,” Thomas said. “It was fun, and I didn’t think too much about it because there were already so many people here at state, so I just already felt like it was a huge deal.”
The other members of the Lady Zs – Payton Moore, Lexi Haughs, Ella McCarter, JV player Laynie Migonis, eighth-grader and team manager Molly Moore – were also there.
“I had several coaches give our administration a shout-out for letting our kids miss school today to come watch,” assistant coach Dan Bailey said. “So I guess that’s a positive thing. Other schools’ administrators would not let them come watch.”
Coach Chad Thomas, who is also Ava’s father, counted 12 to 15 people in her cheering section.
That included former Round Barn Golf Club at Mill Creek PGA Professional Lyle Lingenfelter, father of four former Rochester state qualifiers.
Some of his notes were used for the practice round Thursday.
“Having the family and friend support down here and getting to see Lyle again, that was a surprise,” coach Thomas said. “She had about 15 people following her, so that was nice.”
Coach Thomas said he’s been “incredibly appreciative” of the support Bailey and Thomas have received since they qualified for state at the regional at Sandy Pines Golf Club on Sept. 23.
“Everybody in the community has been wonderful,” coach Thomas said. “At school, family and friends and just the community as a while has been great overall. It’s made a special experience even more special.”
Bailey said she tried to soak up the experience. Her mother and grandparents are regulars at her matches, and the state finals were no exception.
“It’s really exciting and really fun,” Bailey said. “I’ve never experienced it before, so it’s all new to me.”
Coach Bailey said Olivia Bailey, who is also his daughter, has been “surprisingly calm” since it became public knowledge that she was going to state. He said she has had a “quiet confidence” about her since waking up the morning of the regional.
“We can’t get over the community support,” coach Bailey said. “The emails, the texts, the social media posts … she’s received flowers and cards and balloons. I don’t ever remember girls golf receiving such a fanfare … from the community, so that’s been super awesome to see.”
Today’s tee times
Bailey will tee off from No. 1 at 9:50 a.m. for today’s second round. Thomas will tee off from No. 10 at 10:30 a.m.