Teeing Off On the Competition
ZCHS Golfer Annabelle Pancake Is Making a Name for Herself On the Greens
Photography Provided by Ron Wise & Annabelle Pancake
A lifelong dedication to the sport of golf is paying off for Zionsville Community High School senior Annabelle Pancake.
This June, Pancake clinched the 97th Indiana Women’s Golf Association State Amateur championship at Kokomo Country Club, finishing strong with a 4-under score of 66 on the last day of the three-round tournament, three shots ahead of Carmel’s Haylin Harris for a total of 208.
Pancake birdied holes 5, 7, 9, 10 and 11 in the final round to help position herself as the leader, and sunk a 20-foot putt on 17 for a 3-shot lead.
“Everything came together, and I think I did a good job of staying positive and keeping my head in it throughout the rounds,” Pancake says.
For Pancake, golf became a passion long before high school. She first had a club put in her hands at two years old, and the following year she competed in the annual Pepsi Little People’s Golf Tournament that hosts boys and girls ages 3 to 18 in Quincy, Illinois.
“I do remember that course, but I have no idea what I shot or how a placed,” recalls Pancake with a laugh. “I would go play with my cousins and it was really fun.”
The senior continued to participate in summer tournaments as a kid and started to pursue the sport more seriously around age 12 when she began taking lessons from Jon Hoover, current head pro at Otter Creek Golf Course in Columbus and former coach at Westfield High School.
“I got a lot more self-motivated at that point instead of just going and playing for fun,” she says. “Jon helped really get my game started and things took off from there, and I got even more excited about the game.”
Success was quick to come when Pancake reached her high school years, as Zionsville clinched the IHSAA State 2017 team championship in the fall of her sophomore year.
“I knew a lot of the girls going into my freshman year, and I was hoping for a state title but didn’t know if it would happen,” she says. “That was one of my goals, to win as a team because I love all of those girls so much and I’m going to be friends with them for probably the rest of my life.”
A passion for golf certainly runs in the family. Pancake’s mother Libby, an Indiana High School Golf Hall of Fame inductee, also won the IWGA State Amateur title in 1985, and her aunt Kelli Akers won it five years later. Her father Tony was first-team all-state in 1981 at Seymour High School and went on to work as head pro at courses around the country
“Having such a big golfing family with parents that are really good is a blessing and a curse,” Pancake explains. “It’s good because they can catch the small things and mistakes that I might need to work on, but then they’re also my parents and I’m a teenager and sometimes I don’t want to listen to them. But it’s gotten better over the years and I’ve learned that they know more about golf than I do, and if I want to get better I need to take their advice.”
This year Pancake qualified for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Mississippi, which she considered an honor.
“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever qualified for,” she says. “To get to compete on such a huge stage with some of the best players in the world was really exciting.
Pancake says working specifically on her mental disposition while on the course throughout the past year has led to improvements in all aspects of her game and helped propel her to the state title in June.
“Golf is so much about the mental, and I’ve learned this year to be more of my own cheerleader while I’m on the course and just stay positive,” says Pancake, who verbally committed to Clemson University in December. “I’ve always been very hard on myself. I’ve learned that if you have a bad hole you just have to move on and you can’t change the past. All you can do is look forward and try to do better.”