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Making more history

September 24, 2018

BATTLE GROUND — Her first inclination, to be perfectly honest, was to throw up.

“I’m glad I didn’t,” Michigan City golfer Lia Thomas said.

Instead, the Wolves sophomore received a celebratory cart ride with coach Drew White back to the awards ceremony after earning an individual state finals berth in a four-player playoff during Saturday’s Lafayette Jefferson Regional at Battle Ground Golf Club. Thomas is the first M.C. girls golfer to qualify for state since the 1995 Elston-Rogers consolidation.

“I can’t even believe it,” Thomas said. “I still feel like I have to play more holes. It was quite an experience. I’m still shaking. I worked all week on my swing. I’d go to practice, then go home and go hit at the range and putt ’til it was dark. It paid off.”

An 81, with nine-hole rounds of 39 and 42, put Thomas into a playoff with Kokomo’s Kia Parrott, Lake Central’s Dominique Colantuono and Valparaiso’s Grace Cusson, where three spots were to be filled. A hooked drive immediately put Cusson at a disadvantage as she didn’t have a direct line to the green with her second shot. Thomas split the fairway and put her approach shot high on the fringe.

“I was definitely doing the math,” Thomas said. “You’re supposed to stay focused on your shot, block out what’s around you, but sometimes it’s hard with your teammates going crazy.”

Wary of running her lengthy birdie putt past the hole, Thomas left it about five, six feet short.

“I felt so stupid,” she said.

After missing her par putt, Thomas was left with a knee-knocking two-footer, not much longer than one she’d missed on the fourth hole. She cupped it for a five, and when Cusson missed her putt to match it, the playoff was over and Thomas raced to hug her screaming teammates.

Never had a bogey felt so good.

“I got lucky,” Thomas said.

A double bogey on 18 almost ruined her day after she came to the 17th tee in good position to break 80. Instead, a pair of sixes ended her round on a sour note.

“I was really solid,” Thomas said. “Lately, each round, it’s been one thing. Either I have good drives or a good short game. Not everything was particularly perfect, but they all went together.”

White told Thomas to stay loose after her round in case more golf was necessary.

“I had a sense a playoff was coming,” he said. “She had to wait 45 minutes to an hour, not knowing what was going on. If there’s anybody on the team who’s prepared for a pressure-packed stuation, it’s Lia. For a sophomore, she’s so mentally strong. She’s a competitor. She’s very resilient. She had some rough spots, but when she faces adversity, she can bounce back from it. I believe those were seniors she was up against and she was up to the challenge. I’m just so proud of her.”

Thomas put an exclamation point on the day for City, which was nine shots back in sixth place in the team race after nine holes. The Wolves wound up with a 360, good for seventh. Sectional medalist Taylor Skibinski shot an 86, followed by Emily Gushrowski’s 95, one stroke better than Sara Poulin (96), with Emma Sells carding a 108.

“Last year, in our first time here, we finished in 18th place,” White said. ”(This) is a terrific team accomplishment. I’m proud of all these kids’ contributions to put us in this position. Those two seniors (Gushrowski and Sells) ushered in the new normal at Michigan City.”

Culver Academy (309), Lafayette Jeff (330) and Crown Point (337) advanced as teams, the Bulldogs edging L.C. on a fifth-score tie-breaker for third place. C.A.’s Reece Wilson, who didn’t play in the sectional, fired a 2-under-par 70 for medalist honors.

The two-day, two-round state finals begin Friday at Prairie View in Carmel.

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