Fall '02 Prep Preview ... MHS Girls' Golf: Lady Owls have ingredients for success
Considering the prospects for success this season spurs Marshall girls' golf coach Laura Richardson to reminisce.
The Lady Owls' program was created when she was a freshman in 1974 and, by her senior year, had reached the MSHSAA Championships for the only time in its history -- placing second in the state in '77. Similarly, two players who were freshmen when Richardson took over as head coach in '99 are now beginning their final campaign -- and likewise may have a chance to enjoy that experience.
"I'm thinking that, for the seniors, going to state is realistic, something they can do," Richardson declared. "It's really exciting."
One reason Richardson is so optimistic is that four of the usual five starters from a year ago are back -- and better, having spent a large chunk of their summers on the link.
"I think they want it this year and realize the importance of practicing in the summer," she said.
Senior Gynnah Hawkins -- Marshall's representative at the state tournament last year -- has "really approved a lot," according to Richardson. Hawkins is coming off a season in which she placed in the top 20 in all five tournaments -- including 16th at state -- medaled four times and set a new school record by shooting a one-over-par 37 during a dual road match with Helias.
Hawkins is joined by her classmate, Becky Jacobi, and two juniors who have been starters the past two seasons: Grace McCartney and Jenny Dehn.
Jacobi was exceptionally consistent last year, shooting between 44 and 49 in nine-hole matches and 98 in three straight tournaments. McCartney's usual range was between 52 and 55, but she went low with a pair of 47s and placed 12th in the NCMC Tournament. Dehn struggled a couple of times, but scores of 47 or 48 were common in duals -- and her tournament scores were also solid.
"I've seen a lot of maturity, how they recover and let things go," Richardson explained. "We're always working on the mental aspects of the game."
While the top four spots are set, the fifth position is up in the air. One possible contender, junior Alanna Dunham, remains uncommitted -- although she is practicing with the team. Junior Kate Finnegan got in a lot of action a year ago and steadily improved, shooting 58 in her last three duals. Sophomores McKenzie Finnegan, Amber Brown and Megan Kays and freshmen Jill Collins and Samantha Cartee will also seek playing time.
"We're doing a lot of short-game stuff, with a lot of new equipment," Richardson said. "That's where we can knock off strokes."
In addition, five home matches should also help the Lady Owls improve upon last year's 4-4 dual record.
"That's a plus. We can take advantage of that," noted Richardson, who's working the team on the original nine holes at Indian Foothills Golf Course -- in which accuracy is paramount. "That could be intimidating to other teams, playing on that course."
With senior leadership and four proven golfers -- important, given that most events tally only the four low scores for a team's total -- Marshall has a squad which should routinely be in contention. If all four girls should "go low" at the right time, mainly the district meet, the Lady Owls could return to state for the first time in 25 years.
"I see more confidence in themselves and their knowledge," Richardson remarked. "They're realizing their strengths."