By Josh Brown
PIQUA — Troy’s girls are still learning just what they’re capable of together.
And Tippecanoe’s girls are learning what they’re capable of without the leaders of the past seven years.
All in all, Wednesday proved to be a solid kickoff to the fall girls golf season for everyone involved at the Covington Lady Buccs Pinkout Invitational at Echo Hills, with Troy winning in the team standings by shooting 366 to runner-up Tippecanoe’s 372 and with the Red Devils’ Erika Brownlee winning individual medalist honors.
“The girls were kind of surprised really,” Troy coach Tom Mercer said. “You try to convince them that every shot counts. You’re going to hit bad shots in golf, but it’s really all about how you recover from those shots.
“There were times today when they were disappointed with a shot, the shoulders were slumped. But you’ve just got to keep moving forward. And as they did that, they kept realizing that we may have actually won.”
Three Trojans were in the top 10. Caroline Elsass-Smith was fifth with an 89, and Caitlin Dowling and Ali Helman were tied for eighth with 91. LeeAnn Black shot 95, Rainy Rohlfs shot 100 and Hannah Wright shot 108.
“Three girls in the top 10, the girls are finally beginning to see that every shot counts,” Mercer said. “There was very good competition here today, too, so we feel very fortunate to win.”
Tippecanoe, fresh off its fifth-place finish in last year’s Division II state tournament, was playing for the first time in four years without last year’s state runner-up Lindsey Murray — and the three years before that with perennial state competitor Laura Murray.
And yet, it was still a Red Devil bringing home medalist honors, as Brownlee shot an 81 to win the tournament.
“Erika played really well, and Tori (Merrick, who finished third with an 87) also played pretty well,” Tippecanoe coach Scott Murray said. “This is Erika’s first tournament win, so I’m very happy for her. And this is Tori’s best finish at a tournament, so I’m happy for her.
“We’ve got to get a couple of the other girls back into the practice routine. Once we get those third and fourth scores where they should be, we’re looking at a really good year.”
Ally Chitwood shot 97 for Tippecanoe, Taylor Hudson shot 107, Sammie Rowland shot 108 and Lydia Stueva shot 126 as the Devils beat out third-place Versailles, which shot 383.
“I think we were second as a team to Versailles here last year, so this is a good place to build from,” Murray said. “Of the five teams in the area in Division II that I think can make state, four of them were here today. And we lost to Troy, which is Division I. So this really wasn’t a loss to us.
“We’re trying to get the girls back into being competitive today. I’ll be interested to see how we finish at the Versailles Invitational in a couple of weeks. But this was great competition today, and I think we’ll definitely be able to build on this.”
Miami East’s girls were ninth with 469. Kiera Fellers led the way with 105, Haley Howard shot 119, Megan Thompson shot 122, Maggie Bergman shot 123 and Bailey Miller shot 125.
“This was the first time playing 18 holes for four of our girls,” Miami East assistant coach Gary Thompson said. “Only one of the girls had played a full 18 before. This course has a lot of trouble on it, but the girls avoided the trouble pretty well and reacted well.”
Piqua’s girls were 11th with 491. Alaina Mikolajewski shot 111, Cassidy Kraft shot 124, Sarah Ganger shot 125, Anna Klophenstein shot 152 and Korren Evans shot 159.
Host Covington was 13th with 513. Addison Metz shot 117, Kelsey McReynolds shot 124, Alex Gast shot 132, Sydney Blanton shot 140 and Megan Alexander shot 151.
“We have two girls back from last year, and they were both 10-to-15 shots better than last year,” Covington coach Ron Schultz said. “They’re only sophomores, and they’re already showing flashes of improvement. And today was not a big high-pressure situation for anyone, so the girls got to have fun and get a feel for the game of golf.
“The quality of play has been very good here. Tipp is a regular at state, Versailles went to state last year, half of these teams made appearances at regional the year before. It’s really good competition.”
As a whole, it was the perfect kickoff to the new season.
“The weather turned out perfect, everything seemed to go smoothly and all of the girls get along pretty well,” Schultz said. “We try to bring in three or four teams from a bunch of different conferences. It’s just a good kickoff.
“This is our fifth year doing the Pinkout. Every year, it seems like the girls are getting involved in it more and more. Some of the teams go all out and have pink uniforms, hats, shoes and everything just for this tournament. Going into this year, we’ve raised over $5,000 for the Spielman Foundation. It’s just a great way to start the season.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.