She will be known for this Fore-Ava: Rochester’s Thomas, Valley’s Weaver advance to regional
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
WINONA LAKE –- Along with Molly Moriarty, Madelyn Weaver and Ava Thomas recreated a five-year-old photo from an old youth tournament after the Warsaw girls golf sectional at Stonehenge Golf Club Saturday.
They could laugh at the “how it started” version of the photo and take pride in their accomplishments in the “how it’s going” part.
Weaver shot an 87, and Thomas fired a 90, and both advanced to the East Noble regional by having one of the three lowest scores among individuals on non-advancing teams.
NorthWood won their fourth consecutive sectional title with a 325, and Plymouth (354) and Warsaw (359) also advanced to the regional by finishing in the top three.
Weaver, Wawasee’s Rylee Firestone (89) and Thomas advanced as individuals.
East Noble will host the regional, which will be held at Noble Hawk Golf Links in Kendallville at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
NorthWood’s Cybil Stillson carded a 72 to win medalist honors for the third straight year. Teammates Breanna Goss and Ryley Kitson fired a 75 and 77, respectively, to give NorthWood the three lowest scores for the third straight sectional.
Tippecanoe Valley shot a 384 and finished fourth out of eight teams. Valley’s score was a 20-stroke improvement over their 2020 sectional score at Stonehenge, where they finished third and advanced as a team to the regional for the first time in school history.
In addition to Weaver’s 87, Moriarty shot a 93, Kaydence Mellott had a 101, Cheney Canada had a 103, and Lily Ault had a 106. Moriarty missed out on the regional by three strokes.
Weaver’s score was a six-stroke improvement from her conference score at Maple Grove Golf Course in Huntington one week earlier.
Weaver said Stonehenge is tougher than Maple Grove due to the course’s length, increased water hazards and faster greens. She said she had been going through a “rough patch.”
“Finally today I broke it,” Weaver said. “So it was a lot better. … I practiced a lot more. … I couldn’t putt. I still really couldn’t putt today though. But I did better.”
Weaver said golf became her “main sport” as an eighth-grader. Her father Carl is the offensive coordinator for the Valley football team. (Moriarty’s father Stephen is the Valley football head coach.)
“Well, that’s when I started to not like basketball anymore,” Weaver quipped. “And then I decided I could be pretty good at golf, so I decided to practice more.”
“Well, I think it helps that she’s a member out here,” Valley coach Thadd Mellott said of Weaver. “She plays this course a lot. She should have shot better at conference. She’s the best player we have. She was just in a little funk that day. It happens.”
Rochester fired a 428 and finished sixth.
Payton Moore had a 97, Delaney Barkman had a 112, Savanah Eccles had a 129, and Avery Brouyette had a 132 to go with Thomas’ 90. Kat Rensberger did not play due to an arm injury, which left the Rochester fivesome without a senior.
Thomas said it felt “really good” to make the regional.
“Today was kind of hard on the second nine because I shot a 48 after shooting 42,” Thomas said. “It felt like there was the same amount of water, but I wasn’t as focused. … I think I was kind of defeated because on the first hole, I missed a really short putt, and then I kept missing putts.”
Thomas said she enjoyed the muggy weather and temperature in the upper 80s.
“The greens were a lot faster, and there was way more water,” Thomas said.
Thomas put two balls in the water but recovered mentally.
“She’s getting much better at it,” Rochester coach Chad Thomas said. “She’s come a long way. It’s something everybody has to deal with, and she’s learning how to deal with that. Some days are better than others. Today was a pretty good day. I thought she stayed pretty positive the whole way. I gave her a good talk on the tee at 14. Just telling her she was in a good position after nine holes and to walk with her chin up. If you walk with your chin down, you’re going to play like your chin’s down. So walk with some confidence and swing with some confidence.”
Coach Thomas said Ava’s score comes in a year with improved play from a number of teams.
“I thought it was going to take something in the mid-to-upper 80s,” Rochester coach Chad Thomas said. “It seems like scores have been a lot lower this year compared to last year. You look at the TRC, and you look the teams coming in, and a lot of these teams coming in have been playing really, really well. So I thought it was going to take something a little better than 90.”
Coach Thomas called Rensberger’s injury “heartbreaking” but said she’s made an impact on the younger players. Reagan Becker, who didn’t play Saturday, also graduates.
“It looks good,” coach Thomas said of the future of Lady Z golf. “We’ve got to keep working at it and hopefully get some younger girls going in it as well to try and reload and fill in the gaps wherever we need it.”
This marks the 13th time in the last 14 years that somebody from Rochester – either an individual player or the entire team – has advanced to the regional.
Warsaw sectional at Stonehenge Golf Club, Winona Lake, Saturday (par 72)
NorthWood 325, Plymouth 354, Warsaw 359, Tippecanoe Valley 384, Wawasee 412, Rochester 428, Whitko 453, Bremen 485
NORTHWOOD (325): Stillson 72, Goss 75, Kitson 77, Schrock 101, (Sechrist 102)
PLYMOUTH (354): Hutchings 83, LaFree 87, E. McDonald 91, Rozycki 93, (C. McDonald 104)
WARSAW (359): Frazzetta 80, Robinson-Gay 85, Peterson 97, Davis 97, (Byron 99)
VALLEY (384): Madelyn Weaver 87, Molly Moriarty 93, Kaydence Mellott 101, Cheney Canada 103, (Lily Ault 106)
WAWASEE (412): Firestone 89, Cripe 93, Reel 111, Torres 119, (Delagrange 122)
ROCHESTER (428): Ava Thomas 90, Payton Moore 97, Delaney Barkman 112, Savanah Eccles 129, (Avery Brouyette 132)
WHITKO (453): Garr 100, Kraig 117, Hathaway 118, Ross 118, (Starkweather 125)
BREMEN (485): Reasor 115, Ton 122, Bush 122, Stine 126, (Woodward 134)
Top three players from non-advancing teams: 1. Madelyn Weaver (Valley) – 87, 2. Rylee Firestone (Wawasee) – 89, 3. Ava Thomas (Rochester) – 90
Medalist: Cybil Stillson (NorthWood) – 72
Tippecanoe Valley’s Madelyn Weaver, left, and Rochester’s Ava Thomas both advanced as individuals to the regional at the Warsaw girls golf sectional at Stonehenge Golf Club in Winona Lake Saturday. Weaver shot an 87, and Thomas shot a 90. It will be Weaver’s second career trip to the regional. She advanced as part of Valley’s team in 2020. Thomas is a freshman. Noble Hawk Golf Links in Kendallville will host the regional at 8:30 a.m. Friday.