August 13th, 2015

Girls' golf: Sacred Heart looking to make history

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer

Girls' golf: Sacred Heart looking to make history
Ryan Bender is one of Sacred Heart's top three golfers / file photo by Conor Revell

Sacred Heart will attempt to set a stand-alone record of five consecutive state titles in the 2015 golf season. The 2014 quintet tied the record of four straight titles that the Valkyries first set from 1984-87 and that was tied by Glasgow’s dominant teams from 1997-2000.

SHA made a stirring comeback last year and ultimately won the championship in a sudden-death playoff over Henry Clay. Then-senior captain Maddie Hamilton, who is now a freshman playing at the University of Notre Dame, sank a 20-foot par putt to tie Henry Clay and send the competition to extra holes. SHA’s fivesome scored an aggregate 21 to Henry Clay’s 23 on the hole with only the top four scores counting toward the total.

What’s ahead in 2015 for head coach Leslie Bender’s squad? The Valkyries will face tough competition from around the state, including a strong team from Elizabethtown and their standout senior Lauren Hartlage, a University of Louisville commit who finished second overall last year. E’town is the early favorite to end SHA’s second four-year reign as champion.

In addition to preseason favorite E’town, Paul Dunbar and Madison Central also figure to be in the mix at the state tournament in Bowling Green.

Sacred Heart competes in the Fifth Region, which includes perennial contender Shelby County. Assumption and Mercy also compete in the region.

Bender has three returning golfers from last year’s championship team, including junior Morgan Tinsley and sophomores Erin Rowland and Ryan Bender, the coach’s daughter. Rowland birdied the final two holes in last year’s state tournament as well as the sudden death 18th hole to help propel the Valkyries to the title.

“Absolutely,” Bender said if she replays that hole when she’s back at Bowling Green Country Club. “I will see those putts fall, the kids running to each other jumping up and down. It was something that I’ll never forget.”

Tinsley scored a par on the sudden-death hole even though she found herself in trouble on her tee shot and after her second shot.

“I’ve played in a tournament there since then,” Tinsley said. “I’ve played that hole a lot differently. Me and Erin were playing in a tournament and I remember afterwards telling her that it was weird playing there again.”

The trio of Rowland, Bender and Tinsley will lead a group of newcomers that will feature several freshmen competing for a top-five spot in the lineup.

Assumption placed 11th in last year’s regional tournament and coach Chelsey Minch will have a young squad again, but all five of her top golfers return to improve on that finish.

You can read a full in depth feature about the Sacred Heart golf team in the Fall Guide that will be delivered with next week’s Record.

Conor Revell contributed to this story.



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