August 29, 2012 - Lack of experience often hurts high school sports teams and youth usually goes hand in had with this aspect.
From left, Coach Monty Gallaher, senior Paige Kevnick, promising eighth grader Moyea Russel, freshman Lauren Danielson, sophomore Sam Fox, freshman Megan Miller and sophomore Tori Basso. Not pictured are junior Mary Gorsick and senior Rose Griffin. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
Thankfully, despite the young ages on the girls varsity golf team, experience is something most of the them have.
"We're very young this year, so we may not win a whole lot but it's going to get better really quickly," said Head Coach Monty Gallaher.
It is often the case that freshman starting on a high school sports team will begin playing that sport when they enter high school. This means the most experience most clubs will have is players with four years playing the sport.
This is changing rapidly at Lake Orion High School and golf is included this year. Freshmen Lauren Danielson and Megan Miller have both played golf at Paint Creek Country Club, as part of the youth program, since they were 8 years old. Sophomore Viktoria Basso and Samantha Fox both played varsity in their freshman year and know what to expect. The end result is underclassman who are well beyond their years in terms of skill.
"(Danielson and Miller) both grew up playing together and that builds both a good golfing career and a good relationship," said Gallaher. "Even though the season is new, they have fit right in and it will help them heading into the school year. (Fox and Basso) will have the strength of experience on the team this year and both are hitting the ball a lot more consistently than last year. Already in a few tournaments they've played this year they're showing improvement."
Gallaher added that Danielson is strong in her short game, particularly while chipping and putting. Miller is the same and both players typically manage a 16 or 17 putt for nine holes.
"Regulation is 18, so they're under that," added Gallaher.
He also said playing a good short game is more important, usually, than playing long simply because the short game is a more delicate aspect of playing golf. During practice he said the team often spends about 70 percent of their time on the short game, because mistakes near the green are often where scores can go up.
Rounding out the team are the returning seniors Rose Griffin and Paige Kevnick, who will rely on their experience and junior Mary Gorsick who Gallaher said is probably the most improved player from the 2011 season.
From a coaching standpoint, Gallaher said he's focusing on teaching the girls course management, which he defined as being able to plan where you want to play the ball.
"It can really lower your score and once you get course management down, you can see there is a method to the madness," he said. "Strategize and plan it out. If it's a par 5 and you can get to the green in two strokes, take your time and take three strokes so you end up where you want to."
Difficulties this year, unfortunately, also focus on the young age of the team. Gallaher said golfers often falter when school starts because going to the course no longer feels like fun - it feels like work. He said he also tries to teach organizational skill and time management for that specific reason. Still, despite his worries, he believes the experience from the returning players will be useful when guiding the new golfers, even if it means less play time for themselves.
"They're just going to have to use that experience and have to understand that they're playing time may not be as much as it was last year," said Gallaher. We've got young talent and they need to be supportive and they need to be goo teammates. Remembering back to an older team, some of my favorite players never played but they were great teammates and supported the team as a whole. They were always positives, they always wanted the whole team to do well and that counts for something."
Talent aside, Gallaher has a conservative outlook on the season, and expects to finish in fourth or fifth place in the OAA Red. He reminded that golf can become a lopsided sport to look at from just the numbers as tournaments will often have several losers to every one winner. More than anything else, he want's his team to get better, never give up and give it their all.
"I keep preaching that - focus on the next shot and let the bad ones go," he said. "It's the process, not the result. Did you give it 100 percent? Did you try or did you give up?
"As long as you can look at your performance and say 'I didn't give up,' that's all I'm looking for."
The team will face off against Rochester Adams on Sept. 3.