MIDDLEBURY — Braedyn O’Dell grew up playing basketball, softball and soccer at Northridge Middle School.
But when it was time to pick a sport as she entered high school this fall, O’Dell had an easy answer.
Just a freshman, O’Dell has made a name for herself this fall by being not only one of the most consistent golfers in the area, but also one of the best.
Last Saturday at the East Noble Sectional, O’Dell shot a 76 and finished second (by one stroke) to Carroll’s Sarah Bannister, helping to lead Northridge to a berth in this week’s East Noble Regional, just one step away from advancing to the IHSAA State Finals.
“I’m very happy to be going to regionals and confident that I can play well,’’ O’Dell said. “I just want to play my best and enjoy the road and see what happens on Saturday.’’
Coming from an athletic family (sister Brianne is playing softball at Cedarville College in Ohio, other sister Bailey is playing soccer at Huntington and dad Bo is the former softball coach at Northridge), Braedyn gave multiple sports a try, before she started to play golf four years ago.
“Golf was something new for me, but Brianne had played golf in middle school, so I was familiar with it,’’ Braedyn said. “I liked the other sports, but I decided I just wanted to focus on golf and put everything I had in it.’’
“Braedyn’s dad knows a lot about golf and he also knows there is good college scholarship money available for good golfers,’’ Northridge coach Ken Brewster said. “Her folks have been very supportive by investing in lessons and setting things up at home so she could practice all year.’’
According to Brewster, the O’Dells have set-up a range in their backyard where she can work on her game, while also having a net in their basement where Braedyn can work on her swing throughout the winter.
“I know that if Braedyn doesn’t have a lot of homework once practice is over, that she’ll go home and work on her game,’’ Brewster said. “Of course, if we don’t have a meet on Saturday, she’ll work at home, as well as on Sunday. It’s really helped keep her game sharp throughout the season.’’
“I think it’s really helped my scores quite a bit to be able to get my practice in, even if it’s raining,’’ O’Dell said. “My parents have been very supportive with everything, and that includes getting to every meet and tournament that they can.’’
O’Dell had the opportunity to hone her game by playing in the Indiana Junior Golf Tour and the Michiana Junior Tour last summer. That gave her the chance to compete with players she’s battled this fall like NorthWood’s Summer Stillson and Mackenzie Weaver, and Penn’s Andi Sadler.
According to Brewster, whose daughter Ashley – also a freshman – plays in the second spot for the Raiders, O’Dell’s ability to keep the ball straight and hit greens has been the key to her success this season.
“When she’s scoring really well, which has been pretty much all season, she’s hitting nearly every green in regulation,’’ Ken Brewster said. “She’s still working on improving her chipping game so if you see her score in the 80s, it’s because she’s missing greens. But as hard a worker as she is, I’m sure that part of her game will come around.’’
“My short game makes all the difference with my putting and chipping,’’ O’Dell agreed. “But I know if I can get on the green in regulation, I have a shot at getting a birdie. If not, I’ll have to scramble to get a par. So hitting it straight is very important.’’
EAST NOBLE REGIONAL
Where: Cobblestone Golf Course
When: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Area teams: NorthWood, Concord, Elkhart Central, Northridge, Penn.
Area individuals: Courtney King (Elkhart Memorial), Regina Raber (Fairfield).