Mike Peticca | The Gazette
NORTON — The Highland girls golf team aims to sneak up on some opponents over the next three weeks.
For a program that has emerged as one of Ohio’s best, catching others by surprise might seem a peculiar notion.
That’s how the Hornets see things, though, and their championship Monday at the Suburban League Tournament shows they just may be primed to build on their team’s growing tradition.
“I think some people feel we might not be as good as in the past,” senior Karly Alexander said after Highland earned its fifth straight title at Barberton Brookside Country Club. “But we feel we can surprise people in the district and state tournaments. I looked at (the Suburban League Tournament) like the sectional and district. You play your heart out.”
The Hornets’ 325 was 13 strokes better than second-place Green.
Wadsworth senior Alice Ho ran away with medalist honors, carding a 1-over par 73 despite chilly and overcast conditions and a course that took distance from drives and long-iron play due to its softness from recent rains. Highland freshman Madison Butler was second with a 79.
Highland finished second by one stroke to Dublin Jerome in last year’s Division I state tournament. The Hornets play in a sectional next week at Turkeyfoot Lake Golf Links.
There are two reasons in particular why expectations may be a bit more modest. Jessica Porvasnik is now at Ohio State and Jessica McRae at Ohio University after stellar careers. Porvasnik won the individual state championship last October.
“Our goal is still to get to the state tournament,” coach Mary Becker said. “We’re more of an even team. Last year, we had a couple kids who could really go low. We don’t have as much of a luxury now of being able to have someone play bad. We blend a lot of experience with new kids. The other kids are showing they have what it takes to be successful and to continue to establish our tradition.”
Butler, who shot a 76 at the Suburban League Preseason Tournament at Brookside, echoed Becker’s sentiments that the Hornets benefit again this year from a strong chemistry.
“I love the girls on my team,” Butler said. “They took me under their wings and have really shown me the way along the different tournaments.”
Senior Rachel Horvath posted an 81, junior Chloe McKinzie shot an 82 and Alexander carded an 83. McKinzie, a two-year state qualifier, is regarded as the No. 1 player. Her 72 won individual honors at the preseason tourney.
Horvath has been to state twice and Alexander once.
“We’re really blessed to be a part of this team,” Horvath said. “Some top teams are a little more about individuals than the team. But we’re a team in every aspect. We’re really close. We know we can rely on each other.”
If the league named an official MVP, it would be Ho, who is being recruited by Mid-American Conference schools. Ho placed ninth last year at the D-I state tournament.
“I hit 15 greens in regulation,” Ho said, “but I had three three-putts. My approach shots — I’m hitting them within 15 feet of the hole.”
Indeed, Ho has a little bit of Phil Mickelson’s game in her repertoire, relying on a variety of wedges. She birdied the first hole, a par-5, when her 52-degree wedge out of the rough from 74 yards stopped 4 feet from the hole. She also birdied the par-4 second hole by hitting a 56-degree wedge shot to within four feet of the pin and the 107-yard par-3 seventh hole by sticking a 46-degree wedge to 8 feet.
“Alice is consistent with her approach of being focused, calm and collected,” Wadsworth coach Brandon Cobb said. “You walk up to Alice and you can’t tell if she shot a 73 like today or a 90. Her demeanor is the same every time. That’s very important in golf. You can’t be too high and you can’t be too low.”
Cloverleaf (396) finished sixth behind second-team All-SL picks Sierra Pickett (93) and Meredith Illig (96). The performance helped the Colts hold on to the sixth position in the overall standings.
Contact Mike Peticca at email@example.com.