Independence’s girls’ golf team capped an incredible four-year run on Saturday by winning the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state title at Ohio State University’s Gray Course.
Four years ago, head coach Karl Schuld began the program with several freshmen who were eager to learn and compete. Those freshmen closed out their high school careers by setting new state records for the lowest team score in a single round and the two-day low team score.
“I don’t know what to say, I’m speechless,” Schuld said. “I coached softball all those years and I had some really good teams. I thought two or three times we could have played with anybody in the state, but you’ve got to be lucky, so it’s just unbelievable what these kids accomplished.”
Independence opened the tournament with a tournament record 320 on Friday and took a 12-stroke lead into Saturday’s second round. The Blue Devils shot a 332 on the second day to finish with a 652, 11 strokes ahead of second place Shelby.
The Blue Devils broke the previous state record for low team score of 658 strokes set by both Hathaway Brown in 2010 and Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin in 2009.
“There are so many people that have played such a big role in this that have not gotten any attention,” Schuld said. “No doubt about it, I’ve got the best parents. They’re so supportive and come to all the matches. They give us anything I ask for, they just willingly give, whether it’s sandwiches, treats or water, and support for the kids. That’s not replaceable.”
Schuld also credited Lisa Kemenyes for her efforts in bringing girls golf to Independence.
“She was one of the founders of the program,” Schuld said. “She had a vision and gave so much time and effort to the girls. She was one of the first people I thought of when we won this today.”
Independence athletic director Annie McGhee and Chuck Morrow, the grandfather of senior Sophia Trombetta, also contributed to the title run.
“Annie McGhee, our athletic director, has just been phenomenal. If I ask her for something she does it. She’s behind the scenes and people don’t see that,” Schuld said. “Chuck Morrow has worked with a lot of my kids on the side, working on their putting and their chipping. He’s done so much for us, I can’t thank him enough. All of those people and probably 50,000 others, I just want to thank them for everything they’ve done for us.”
Steve Ambrose, Independence’s junior varsity coach, also had a lot to do with the success of the program.
“He helped prepare a lot of these girls,” Schuld said. “(Freshman) Morgan Pascarella, who started golfing three months ago, went out and shot a 93 today and Steve had a lot to do with that. I just want to thank him because he gives me kids and every kid he sends up to my varsity is knowledgeable and knows how to golf. He’s a big part of the program.”
Trombetta and classmate Lyndsay Blum both earned All-Ohio honors for their strong performances at the tournament.
Trombetta, who tied the Division II state record with a 68 on Friday, finished tied for second with a 142.
“It was definitely bitter sweet feeling,” said Trombetta, who will continue her education and playing career at the University of Michigan. “Winning as a team was so awesome, but I wanted to bring home the individual title too. I did everything I could to prepare myself for this, but at the end of the day it wasn’t meant to be. I played great the first day and I played just as great the second day, the only difference was confidence in my putting. I threw away six easy strokes on the greens.”
Sarah Willis of Eaton broke Trombetta’s record on Saturday as she carded a 67 to finish with a tournament-low 139 strokes to defend the state title she won in 2016. St. Mary’s Memorial’s Jill Schmitmeyer shot a 73 on Friday and a 69 on Saturday to tie Trombetta for second.
A two-time first team All-Ohioan, Trombetta felt confident the Blue Devils could pull off the tournament win, but even she was surprised to hoist the first place trophy.
“I am still in shock,” she said. “I can’t believe we actually pulled it off. About a week ago, we were all sitting at dinner talking about how we would celebrate when we won. We knew we were going to win, and that might sound cocky, but I think it’s confident. We knew we were the most prepared team. ‘Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.’ I think we were the most talented team, but our hard work absolutely paid off.”
Blum earned second team All-Ohio honors after finishing tied for eighth with a 152.
“Winning the state title is truly a dream come true,” Blum said. “There is no way I can fully describe how it feels. I remember four years ago as a freshman, Mr. Schuld said to me, ‘We’re going to be state champs,’ and I thought he was crazy because we were a brand new team. The four seniors on our team have worked more than anyone I know to accomplish what we did today. This is truly a memory I will cherish forever.”
Blum carded a career-low 75 on Friday and finished the tournament with a 152.
“My personal experience at state was by far my best golf experience ever,” she said. “I broke my personal best the first day with a 75 and came out the next day and shot a 77. My swing felt the best it has ever been and my putting was on. I overall just felt great. Ending my high school career with two of my best rounds ever and bringing home a state championship is incredible beyond words for me.”
Senior Madeline Mindzora was consistent throughout the tournament as she shot an 89 on both Friday and Saturday to finish tied for 35th with a 178.
“Winning the state title means the world to me,” Mindzora said. “It proves that four years of hard work and dedication does pay off. I really enjoyed playing at state. By far, it’s been my favorite course to play. I think I played very well even though I had a few bad holes here and there, but if I had a bad hole I would just shake it off and go to the next hole. I had a good mindset the whole round and I’m very pleased with myself and my teammates.”
Senior Maddie Harper finished tied for 38th overall with a 180.
She shot 88 on Friday and finished with a 92 on Saturday.
“I think for me, the key was just staying focused on one shot at a time,” Harper said. “It’s so easy to get frustrated, but putting bad shots behind you is crucial. Also, our expectations this year were so high, so we had to put that excitement out of our minds as well. Overall, I felt that as a team, this is the best we’ve ever played because everyone had good rounds on the same two days. It’s unbelievable. Winning the state title is just the culmination of all of our hard work these past four years. We all put so much effort into everything we were doing, and it really ended up paying off.”
Pascarella worked her way onto the varsity this season and played her best golf of the season when it mattered most.
She carded a 97 on Friday and finished the tournament with a 93 on Saturday to finish in 54th place with a 190.
“It was a privilege to get to golf with these girls and get to experience this,” Pascarella said. “Everyone on the team has helped me so much and has pushed me to be better. I’m so happy we won and it’s something I’ll always remember. I was super excited to golf my personal best at the state championship. Thanks to Coach Schuld for getting me started in the sport.”