For the past few seasons, Audrey Eckart was generally viewed as the leader for the Whiteland girls golf team.

Quietly, though, it was Bri Harwell who finished with the team’s low scoring average last year.

Now a junior, Harwell is officially in the No. 1 position for the first time — and she’s already proving herself worthy, having earned medalist honors in the Warriors’ season opener at Columbus East on Thursday.

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Whiteland coach Crystal Morse was confident that Harwell was ready to embrace the bigger role.

“I had Aubrey playing in that No. 1 spot (last year) primarily for the leadership, and I knew she was comfortable,” Morse said. “I wasn’t sure Bri was quite comfortable in it yet.”

“She needed that year to gain a little bit of maturity.”

Harwell’s game was already pretty mature. Her 9-hole stroke average of 42.7 in 2016 was slightly better than Eckart’s 42.9, and she fired four rounds of 39 during the season.

She shot an 84 at Hickory Stick during the sectional, helping the Warriors finish third and advance as a team. In the regional round at Smock, Harwell carded an 83, just two strokes shy of a state qualifying spot.

Coming so close to the next level helped inspire Harwell to put in more work over the summer.

“Ever since last year, when I was two off from state, I’ve gotten a lot more serious about the game,” she said. “I have this mindset that I can do this; I can push myself past my limits where I can do great things.”

Harwell has started thinking about playing college golf, and she’s even harboring dreams about potentially turning the game into a career.

First, though, she’s got two seasons left with the Warriors, who will be trying to follow her lead.

“It’s a pretty big responsibility,” Harwell said. “but I’m going to do my best to keep the team structured.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.