Freshman Fox wins 8-6A crown; leads girls golf to first regional berth since 2004
By TJ MAXWELL
KILLEEN - The last time the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs’ golf team made it to the regional tournament, most of the current players were still learning to walk.
That all changed on Wednesday as the Lady Dawgs finished second as a team to advance to the Region I-6A tournament at the Tierra Verde Golf Club in Arlington.
After holding a tie for the lead after a weather-shortened day one, freshman Elle Fox shot a two-under 70 on day two to rip the District 8-6A title away from the usual suspects Midway and Belton.
Fox is really proud of her individual accomplishment but even more proud of her team that has three sophomores and a junior to go with the freshman.
“It feels awesome,” she said of winning the district championship in her first attempt. “I accomplished a lot of stuff this year and this is one of them. I’m so happy for myself.
“I’m really proud of our team. We worked so hard for this. This is the first time since 2004. We worked really hard and I think we deserved this.”
Head golf coach Nate Reding is also impressed with his young team.
“The girls worked hard all year,” he said. “They played in some good golf tournaments this year and had some other wins throughout the year. It shows their hard work. It’s something they’ve earned and is very exciting. Hopefully, they can get out of regionals and got to state.”
Fox carded a first round score of 37 before posting her best-ever round of 70 at Stone Tree Golf Club to pull away from the field on day two to win by 13 strokes.
“This is my favorite course,” said Fox. “It means so much to win my first district title here. This is my first time going under par on this course. It means a lot.”
Fox and her teammates picked the right time to peak with three of the players finishing in the top 10 to earn the second spot behind Midway. Sophomore Maddie Miller shot a combined 132 to finish seventh overall and junior Carly Nelson shot a combined 138 for 10th place. Sophomores Abi Baker (149) and Andrea Vandegrift (172) contributed to the team’s second place tally of 526 points behind Midway (500) and in front of Belton (540). Neslon’s day two score of 91 was a personal best as was Baker’s day two round of 99.
Fox had been working through some midseason hiccups but worked in out in time to take home the top spot in District 8-6A.
“I fought through it,” she said. “I was having a little trouble with my chipping and putting but it didn’t matter that much because it wasn’t that bad. I practiced through it.”
Perhaps verbally committing to Division I Mississippi State before taking on the district competition helped settle the nerves.
She wanted to get it out of the way so she can focus solely on her game over the next three-plus years but also because she felt it was the right fit.
“Mississippi State felt like it was home,” she said. “The coach is amazing and incredible. It just felt like home and the right decision for me. I made a great choice.”
Reding has high hopes for this year’s squad but, with all five returning next year, he knows the future is bright.
“Lady Dawg golf has a big and bright future,” he said. “Elle is just a freshman and playing well. Maddie is coming along, and our number three player (Carly) is a junior so we’ve got another year with her and she’s getting better. We have a sophomore and four and another at five and they’re all getting better. Things are looking really good for the future.”
Fox agreed but doesn’t want to look ahead just yet.
“It’s so great,” she said. “I believe that next year we can go too but we still have work to do this year.”
Reding thinks is all about self-belief.
Right now, we’ve just got to focus on confidence,” he said. “They have to believe they can do it because, it’s hard to turn it around if you get down on yourself on the golf course. If they believe in themselves, they can do great things. They just have to build confidence for the next two weeks and, hopefully, play great in regionals.”
The Cove boys also competed in the two-day district tournament where they finished fifth overall, led by senior Marcus Ortiz who scored a combined 181 to lead his team. Y. D.J. Dewald finished with a combined 182 and Yun Choi finished third on the team with a score of 190. Nick Barron (238) and Joseph Hannah (240) rounded out the boys’ scores. Dewald’s second round 88 was a personal best.
Belton freshman Dallas Hankamer shots a combined 139 to win the boys’ individual title and the Belton team took the top spot with a combined 584 followed by Midway with a score of 616.
The Lady Dawgs will tee it up in the Region 1-6A tournament at the Tierra Verde Golf Club in Arlington on April 25-26.