TITLE IX AT 50: NorthWood’s Yoder reigned supreme in girls golf in 1988 | Sports


NAPPANEE — On June 23, 1972, the Education Amendments of 1972 were signed into law. The most notable part of the legislation were the 37 words of Title IX of the act, which read, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

While sports weren’t directly mentioned in the law, Title IX paved the way for what female sports are today. In Indiana, high school girls volleyball and gymnastics were immediately added as IHSAA sports in the 1972-73 season, while girls track, golf, swimming and diving, basketball, tennis, cross country, softball and soccer all eventually followed suit over the next 25 years.

Now, with it being the 50th anniversary of Title IX, The Goshen News is proud to celebrate some of the best female sports achievements from its coverage area.

This story focuses on Gina Yoder, who won the 1988 individual girls golf state championship despite NorthWood not having a team that year.

FALLING IN LOVE WITH GOLF

Although Yoder first picked up a set of golf clubs when she was 10 years old, it wasn’t until the next year when she really started playing the game. After getting a golf pass to the local course in the area for Christmas, Yoder set out to use it as much as possible.

“I made it a point that first year to play every day,” Yoder said. “Literally any day I could, I played golf, and I kept every single scorecard. By the time the end of the summer came, I shot a 47 (over nine holes). I went from thinking 70s was good for nine holes to shooting a 47 by the end of the first year.”

By age 12, Yoder started competing in different tournaments across the state.

As she entered high school, though, NorthWood didn’t have enough players to field a full girls golf team. In fact, the Panthers didn’t have a girls golf team until 1994.

This left Yoder as a solo player during the girls’ season in the fall and a member of the boys’ roster during the spring.

“I knew that we wouldn’t have a girls golf team,” Yoder recalled. “There just wasn’t anyone playing golf, so I knew there was no way to make a team. I was friends with a lot of the boys in the summer because that’s who was playing golf, so I kind of already knew most of them. So, I knew I was going to play on the boys’ team. That’s just how it was.”

Her freshman year is also where Yoder realized just how good she was becoming at golf.

“I remember being at a tournament in my age group in Elkhart where my nine-hole scores were better than any of the other girls playing, regardless of age,” Yoder said. “And I was hitting woods into the greens while they were hitting irons. So, I was pretty good within a couple of years because by the time I was a freshman, I played as the No. 5 or 6 on the boys’ team.”

While Yoder played the full seasons with the boys’ team, she only played in the IHSAA postseason tournaments during the girls’ season.

After not making the state meet in her freshman year of 1985, Yoder qualified for the then-one day state finals in both 1986 and 1987. While she didn’t place at state in either of those seasons, Yoder went into her senior season with a lot of confidence.

WINNING STATE

Everything seemed to click for Yoder in the 1988 postseason. The senior was able to win individual sectional and regional championships, setting her up to be one of the favorites heading into the state meet.

“I’m going into the state tournament, and it’s not just like any other event; it’s the big one,” Yoder said. “There are other great players in the state; I’m one of the top, but I’m not thinking I’m going to run away with it. I’m going into it hoping to play well, but I’m not expecting to win. I’m just hoping to play my best golf.”

Yoder was one of the first players to tee off that day at the Prestwick Country Club in Avon, starting her round at 9:07 am While Yoder admits she didn’t have her ‘A’ game that day, there was one area in particular where she did shine through.

“One of the things that stands out from that day is it’s one of the best days of putting in my life,” Yoder said. “I didn’t particularly hit the ball that well and I don’t even know if I chipped that well, but I knew I was making all of these 12, 15-foot putts to save par. So, this was not a low-scoring day; it wasn’t like what they’re shooting these days. Could you have played much better? Yeah, because I actually remember hitting it into a hazard, chipping out of it and then making a 10-foot putt to save par.”

Yoder shot a 38 on the front nine and a 40 on the back nine to give her a score of 78. It was the last shot of the day, though, that may have ultimately won the state title for the NorthWood standout.

“On the last hole, I remember seeing my mom and my brother on the other side of the hole, and I had this 40-foot putt for birdie,” Yoder recalled. “I saw them behind the hole, I looked at the putt and I said, ‘This is going in.’ It’s one of the few times I’ve had a moment like that; I just knew it was going in, and I made it. They were jumping up and going nuts, and I was like, ‘Why are they so excited? I knew I was going to make it.’”

Being one of the first players to finish this round, Yoder had to wait for a few hours to see if her score of 78 would hold up.

Once everyone had completed their rounds, Yoder was the only one to have a score in the 70s. She had won the state title, edging out Evansville Harrison’s Kim Haywood by two shots. Harrison would be the team state champions, having three individuals finish in the top 10 that day.

On top of winning the state championship, Yoder was selected as the IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winner for the sport as well.

“It’s just a proud moment,” Yoder said. “All of the hard work had paid off. The hours I spent putting in the dark after school — I’d wait until dark and have to putt using the lights of the baseball field. All that time spent on my own practicing — winning a state championship, others had teams to practice with, and I was doing it all on my own every day after school. All that time spent working hard, it culminated in doing something that was pretty great.”

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