Bunker’s Weekend: North freshman wins girls golf state title by 9 shots

CARMEL — For a brief moment Saturday afternoon, a five-shot lead that Ava Bunker had built was whittled to two shots.

But back-to-back three-putt bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 did nothing to rattle the Columbus North freshman. She played the final five holes in 1-under par to run away with medalist honors at the Girls Golf State Finals.

“I just had to make sure I played it safe and was doing what I needed to do,” Bunker said. “I felt pretty good at how I finished and very proud because I didn’t have anymore three-putts after that.”

Bunker finished with a 1-over-73 in Saturday’s final round. Combined with her opening 3-under 69 on Friday, she carded a 2-under 142, tied for fifth-best in the 50-year history of the state tournament and tied for the best in the nine years it’s been contested at Prairie View Golf Course.

“My goal was around par, but I unfortunately had four three-putts,” Bunker said. “I could have putted better. Otherwise, I was playing well.”

“She did have a few three-putts, and she wasn’t very happy about that, but that’s just a part of it,” North coach Scott Seavers added. “She’s really good about bouncing back on the next hole, and she doesn’t let those things really take her out of her game plan.”

Castle sophomore Ashley Kirkland finished second individually at 7-over 151 and Batesville freshman Ava South was third at 8-over 152. Carmel won the team title with a 629, 14 shots ahead of Castle and Center Grove.

Bunker is the second freshman ever to win state individual medalist honors, joining Warsaw’s Emily Johnson, who won in 2003. Bunker is the second Bull Dog golfer to win, joining Holly Anderson, who was victorious in 2016.

“I just knew she was really good,” Seavers said. “I think this is a process, and we ultimately have a goal at the end of the year. As long as she kept working and doing what she needed to do, I expected her to be playing in the state finals with a chance. It’s very difficult to do because there’s a lot of good high school girls golfers in Indiana.”

Bunker was playing as an individual after the Bull Dogs finished fifth as a team in the Franklin Regional, two spots short of qualifying as a team. Bunker also won medalist honors at the regional after doing that at the Conference Indiana and Bloomington North Sectional tournaments.

The win did not come as a huge surprise to Bunker. A veteran of national junior tournaments, she was an accomplished golfer before entering high school this fall.

Bunker ranks winning the state title as No. 2 on her list of accomplishments behind her victory in this summer’s World Junior Championship at Pinehurst, North Carolina. But that doesn’t mean this state title isn’t special to her.

“It means a lot because this summer and this fall have been very good,” Bunker said. “It’s been one of my best summers and falls yet.”