Balanced battle for the crown in Mideastern Conference golf

New Hanover's Maddy Thompson plays in the Mideastern Conference girl's golf tournament at the Players Course at St. James Plantation Monday Oct. 14, 2013. (Photo by Paul Stephen)

Editor's Note: South Brunswick's Ashley Sloup turned in the best score Monday at the course, but was later disqualified for an incorrect scorecard. Hoggard's Erica Rasmussen was the day's medalist with an 82.

ST. JAMES | Although the honors have pretty much been decided, the Mideastern Conference girls golf race has been a study in balance all season.

Ashley should win the crown on Tuesday at the Country Club of Landfall, as the Screaming Eagles’ Katy Flax and Darby Bagshaw have lived up to expectations and led their team in every match.

South Brunswick standout Ashley Sloup, the reigning StarNews Player of the Year, has played well in every match she’s entered, although she might not win the conference title. She missed two matches because of her participation in the Champions Tour’s First Tee Open in California last month, meaning she might not have enough 9-hole scores to qualify.

Regardless of that result, the league has benefited greatly from realignment, as the league’s top golfers have found more friendly competition in 2013.

“It helped a lot. Last year it was the same thing every week, and it was pretty predictable,” said West Brunswick’s top player, Cameryn Smith. “This year, every time is a constant battle every week, no matter how good or bad you did.”

Monday’s round at The Players Club reflected that fight. Hoggard’s Emily Rasmussen, who shot 82 from the

Vikings’ No. 3 position, took first place for the first time this season.

“The team aspect has been fun,” said Laney freshman Caroline Cahill, who shot 83 along with Flax on a sometimes breezy day. “And the players on the other teams have been really nice.”

For New Hanover’s Maddy Thompson, having more of a team has made her senior season very enjoyable. Thompson, who led the

area’s Class 4A contingent last year with a 19th-place tie at the state tournament, has stayed in the top five locally while also acting as a player-coach on the range.

“This year is the first time we’ve had a number of younger players. I find myself in practice helping them more than myself,” Thompson said. “I still practice, but it’s a lot of, ‘Hey, do this; hey, try this.’ It’s fun to see the tricks and tools you learned apply to someone else.”

Tuesday’s conference finale will be the last regional push. Players are required to average 55 or better over nine holes in order to move to Monday’s regional, and teams with three players at a regional can qualify for the team championships later this month. Ashley would like to improve on its 12th-place state finish last year, and the more players at the regional, the better.

“We’re definitely trying to get three people to regionals, so we are rooting people to break 50,” said Flax, a sophomore, “and one did, so that was good.”