Golfers show signs of progress, improvementAugust 16, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
FRENCH LICK — Summer has officially escaped us. Although the days may still be long and the heat won’t subside for quite a bit of time, the season of leisure and relaxation has given way to the start of school.
But this isn’t a statement of despair, as the coming of a new school year also brings forth the excitement of a new fall sports season, which a few of the local athletes have already taken to full swing as the Jasper, Southridge and Forest Park golf teams took to the hills and racing greens that were presented by the Donald Ross Course for the Springs Valley Invitational. The shots were measured and the rough was managed, but when the final strokes were tallied, it was the Wildcats that took the top overall spot with a 198 in Thursday’s match.
“They had great hope when they came in and we did a practice round,” said Wildcats volunteer coach Madelynne Wagner. “Everything went well there; they figured out what they needed to do. Everyone was smiling, and that’s what I look forward to.”
Elizabeth Ackerman and Halle Knies both shot a 45 to lead the Wildcats, and attributed the team’s success to the practice round they were able to play earlier in the week. Both girls thought the practice round helped the team get used to how fast the greens would play, so they knew how to make the necessary adjustments in their short game during Thursday’s match.
“I think most of the team really improved from our practice here on Monday,” Knies said. “The greens were pretty crazy, so our practice helped and our putting was better.”
“Everyone tried their hardest, but we could all still improve,” Ackerman added. “I’m impressed with how we turned out.”
Southridge finished third overall with a 220, which was just one stroke off from the hosting Springs Valley Blackhawks. Raiders coach Tom Collins said he expected that kind of a finish from his team given the difficult course plus the lack of varsity experience amongst some of the players. But based on what he has seen from his team so far in the early portion of the season, Collins is confident the girls are headed in the right direction, and thinks Thursday’s match did a lot of good in helping them increase their golf IQ and improve how they approach their shots in the coming weeks.
“Coming up and experiencing a course like this, we knew the scores would be a little bit higher. I was hoping to see them try to play a little bit smarter, not just get up there and hit the ball,” he said. “A couple of them talked to me during the round like ‘I’m going to put my driver away and just hit an iron off the tee.’ That shows a bit of maturity there. Tuesday night we shot a 199, so they know they can do it. We’re right where we need to be.”
Junior Baileigh Schneider once again shined the brightest amongst all golfers, as she shot a 37 and finished with the top overall score in the match, her third such outing of the season. Collins said she is finally maturing as a golfer, and she believes she has found the right mix when it comes to putting all of her mechanical and mental tools together in order to produce the kind of rounds she has put together so far this season.
“I was thinking I just gotta keep it straight, make putts where I needed, and just hope for pars,” she said. “I got a couple of birdies which really helped my score. To become a medalist at this match, it really made me happy where I am right now.”
Forest Park shot a collective 240 to finish fourth at the Invitational. Rangers coach Pat Shuler knew the course would be quite a challenge for his team to overcome, but he is determined to work with the girls and use the next month or so of play to help them shore up their games in order to be the best team possible for sectional.
“This is a very difficult course, and at our level, it’s bigger than us,” he said. “But we have some girls who can play, they just need to come around. We have a lot of work to do, and we have a couple of weeks to do that before sectional.”
Sophomore Maya Jones finished with a 58 and believes she let the challenge of the course get to her and frustrate her during her play. She and the rest of the team want to get better at managing their emotions during matches, and not let the frustrations of prior shots compound onto the next shot. However, she can see parts of her game that are improving, and she thinks the team as a whole is getting better at rallying together which helps make the journey of the season easier to endure.
“I played not as good as I have, emotions definitely get you,” said Jones. “My putting is definitely getting a lot better. My drives are getting a lot better. We’re definitely improving on our scores, but we’re also becoming a better team. We’re sticking together [and] cheering each other on. It definitely helps throughout the game.”
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