With her match to be decided on the final hole, Caroline Ingram knew she had an edge by the look on her male opponent's face.
“I had beaten the guy the previous year and I think he was thinking, 'Here this girl is again,'” Ingram said with a laugh. “I was 1-up going into the final hole and I could tell he was nervous. I hit my first shot straight, and before I knew it he had hit his ball into the hazard. I think he crumbled because he knew he was about to lose to a girl.”
Whether it is her perfectly refined putting game, her all-around consistency, or the mental edge she's learned to exploit over the guys, Ingram has turned into a force for the Andover High golf team.
Ingram entered the week with an 8-2 individual record – all against males – playing out of the No. 2 spot for the Andover varsity golf team that held a 6-4 record, needing two wins to make the state tournament.
“Caroline is an amazing player,” said Warriors head coach David Fazio. “She has a terrific competitive spirit and is fearless. She is a fantastic putter, has a very impressive all-around game and is a great leader.”
It is the second straight stellar individual season for Ingram, who notched 10 wins last fall. But she said this season is even more special because she is taking on the opponent's top competitors.
“Last year was amazing, but I was playing in the No. 8 spot,” she said. “This year I am playing much better competition because I am in the No. 2 spot, and still winning. So that is really, really exciting.”
Ingram has not only been a top performer this season. As team captain and lone senior she has also taken on the role of mentor for her younger teammates, particularly freshman phenom Mac Lee, who moved to Andover from California.
“When Mac moved here we knew he would be our No. 1 golfer,” said Ingram, who is also a captain and defenseman in hockey. “We played golf together a few times over the summer and created a good chemistry. Coach Faz liked the way we played together so he kept us together during meets. I like to lead and to work with Mac and the other young guys to make them comfortable.”
While it is now a passion, golf wasn't always second nature to Ingram.
“My dad started bringing my sister and I to Winchester Country Club when I was 6 or 7 years old,” she said. “He bought us stuff and taught us, but I didn't like it at first. We were just two little girls trying to hit golf balls.
“Hockey was always my favorite sport. But my dad kept bringing us, and the more I played and the better I got the more I liked it. Then it became a goal for me to make the high school varsity team. I had heard of other girls that played varsity golf and I wanted to follow them.”
After two seasons on the JV team, Ingram broke onto the varsity team last year, and Fazio said she could have been the Warriors' No. 1 player this fall had Lee not transferred to Andover.
And while Ingram admits playing almost exclusively against male opponents – she has only once ever faced a female – Ingram more than embraces the challenge.
“It's always interesting,” she said. “When Faz announces who is playing who, the guy playing me usually smiles at his friends like, 'I'm playing a girl.' I get a few reactions like they think it will be easy. But I use that to my advantage because the guys don't want to walk back to their buddies and know they lost to a girl.
“I know I'm not as long (driving) off the tee as the guys, but I like to think my short game is very good. I'm a good putter. If I can hit it straight and accurate, but short game can win it. Everyone wants to hit the long ball, but matches come down to putts, and I always work on that.”
With college now on the horizon – she said Boston College and Fordham are two of her top choices – Ingram knows her competitive golf career could be nearing a close. So she hopes this fall will end with a bang.
“I think this is a team that can have a legitimate run and do something special at MVCs,” she said. “We have Mac and a lot of talented golfers. Hopefully we can make some noise at MVCs and beyond.”
HOOPTOWN FALL CLINICS
Hooptown will be hosting basketball clinics on Sundays, Oct. 16, 23 and 30 and Nov. 6 and 13. Clinics, for grades 2-9, run from 9:30-11:30 a.m. The staff includes staff will include players from both the boys and girls varsity teams as well as coaches from both staffs.
The price is $50 per session or $200 for all five. Registration forms and payments can be sent to David Fazio/Hooptown, PO Box 1542, Andover, MA 01810
Reach sportswriter/videographer David Willis on Twitter at @DWillisET