It was déjà vu all over again for Sacred Heart Academy and Ryan Bender on Monday.
Once again, the girls’ Fifth Region golf tournament was plagued by less-than-ideal conditions, and Bender, a junior, took home the individual title for the second straight year while leading her Valkyries to their third consecutive team title at Midland Trail Golf Club.
After playing most of the season in dry, warm conditions, golfers participating in the regional tournament were treated to a taste of fall, with overcast skies and temperatures in the 60s. Then, late in the morning just as the top threesomes teed off, a steady rain began and lasted for more than an hour.
Bender, who has professed her love for such conditions, thrived early. She birdied the first hole and would play consistent golf throughout her round, shooting 72 with two birdies and two bogeys. Bender missed out on an under-par round thanks to a bogey on 17, but she rebounded by making a short par putt on 18 to beat Shelby County senior Lilly Young by a stroke.
“As soon as I knew it was going to rain, I felt like I had a little bit of an edge on everybody else,” Bender said.
In the team competition, Sacred Heart (305) beat Shelby County (331) by 26 strokes. The Rockets join the Valkyries in next week’s Leachman Buick GMC Cadillac KHSAA State Championship at Bowling Green County Club. Manual finished third in the team competition, 48 strokes behind Shelby County.
Now the focus for the Valkyries will be to reclaim their spot at the top of the state tournament. Prior to last year, Sacred Heart had won four straight state titles, but coach Leslie Bender, Ryan’s mother, said last year’s young team got caught up in the moment.
“We’re going to go and just try to have as much fun playing golf as we can,” said the coach, whose team will seek its 10th overall state title. “Our goal is to make birdies.”
The elder Bender also wants to see her team post at least four rounds in the 70s each day. They missed that by one stroke Monday as sophomore Taylor Edlin (76), senior Morgan Tinsley (77) and junior Erin Rowland (80) finished in the top eight individually.
Those low scores, despite the conditions, are attributed to the girls’ commitment to the game, Leslie Bender said.
“These girls, they don’t quit when the season ends,” she said. “They play, and they play through the winter, and they play in snow. So, they’re just used to having adverse conditions. It doesn’t faze them nearly as much.”
In addition to the Valkyries and the Rockets, the four top individuals from the rest of the field also earned bids to Bowling Green: Sophomore Molly Bebelaar of South Oldham, junior Lucy Suo from Manual, Henry County sophomore Maddie Hensley and Kentucky Country Day sophomore Alexis Harden.
“It’s really exciting I get to go back there,” said Bebelaar, who finished third overall with a 75 and missed matching her personal best by a stroke. Suo and Hensley also will make a return appearance to the state tournament.
Girls’ Fifth Region Golf Tournament
at Midland Trail Golf Club, Par-72
Team Results: x-Sacred Heart Academy 305, x-Shelby County 331, Manual 379, Kentucky Country Day 389, Collins 399, Henry County 400, Oldham County 405, Collegiate 411, Christian Academy 412, North Oldham 413, Mercy 419, Ballard 439, Eastern 456, Assumption 467.
Individuals: Ryan Bender (SHA) 72, Lilly Young (Shelby Co.) 73, x-Molly Bebelaar (South Oldham) 75, Taylor Edlin (SHA) 76, Morgan Tinsley (SHA) 77, x-Lucy Suo (Manual) 78, x-Maddie Hensley (Henry Co.) 78, Erin Rowland (SHA) 80, x-Alexis Harden (KCD) 82, Jennifer Fuqua (Shelby Co.) 83, Ava Dillow (Brown) 84, Grace Walker (CAL) 84, Jackie Steier (SHA) 85, Faythe Turner (Male) 86, Abbey Lawson (J’town) 87, Faith Wiley (Shelby Co.) 87.
x-advances to state