SHELBY — Nicole Jones had some big golf shoes to fill and the Shelby sophomore has outdriven expectations.
Jones, the Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, finished sixth individually at last week’s Division II district tournament at Sycamore Springs to lead the Whippets to a fourth-place finish.
Shelby earned the final qualifying spot to this week’s state tournament at Ohio State’s Gray Course. Jones carded a 77 a week after firing a jaw-dropping 65 to win the individual sectional title at Valley View.
“I’m still trying to find out if that is the tournament record,” first-year Shelby coach Nick Briggs said at the time. “Regardless, 65 is a phenomenal score.”
Growing up in the shadow of older sister and former Shelby state champ Alexis Jones, Nicole burst onto the scene as a freshman. She finished 15th individually at last year’s Division II state tournament with a two-day total of 163, helping the Whippets to a second straight team runner-up trophy.
She teamed with Mandy Ruminski to form one of the best one-two duos in the state. Ruminski moved to Lexington and Jones slid seamlessly into the No. 1 spot for the Whippets.
“Nicole has done a great job for us all season,” Briggs said at the sectional tournament. “She isn one of the top players in the area and in the state.”
Shelby shot a 379 at Sycamore Springs, earning its fourth straight trip to the state tournament. Julia Gutchall shot an 85, while Gillian Stumbo carded a 99. Maci Westmeister had a 117 and Tressie Carroll had a 140.
Both Gutchall and Stumbo were members of last year’s state runner-up team.
Shelby had the highest score of the 12 teams to qualify for the state tournament. With three state tournament veterans, Briggs likes his team’s chances.
“A lot of these girls have been in these situations before and they don’t feel as much pressure,” Briggs said. “These girls are very confident. They know what is expected.”