The Garaway girls golf team is making a very large statement in the early going of the 2017 high school golf season, and the Lady Pirates have very high hopes with four experienced veterans returning.
Last year the Lady Pirates had just four players, all of whom returned this year. That included senior Kalyn Mast, juniors Jocelyn Troyer and Leigh Ann Williams, and sophomore Helena Immel.
Those four girls played well enough to earn a spot in the state tournament, despite every other team sporting six players, and fared well, placing ninth last season. This year the expectations are even greater, and head coach Matt Hallman said the injection of some youth will make the team even better this season.
“We’ve got four experienced players back and added four talented freshmen who will actually give us some depth this year,” Hallman said. That group includes Makayla Weaver, Halle Hallman, Kaitlyn Coburn and Kat Weaver. “The four freshmen are all kids who have shown a lot of potential.”
The returning core is talented, led by Troyer. Hallman said his team has really prepared hard for the season in anticipation of what they believe is going to be a special season.
“We have played a ton of golf this summer, and we have turned in a lot of golf cards getting ready for the year,” Hallman said.
The early results have been hugely encouraging, and in their head-to-heads, the Lady Pirates have simply run away and hid from opponents.
Several tournaments against much bigger schools have provided a challenge, but in the IVC preseason tournament, Garaway won by nearly 60 shots.
That IVC preseason score of 320 is a tremendous effort, considering the team’s best effort last year was 369. Garaway followed that with a 326 and a 336, showing the score was not a fluke.
“It’s been a really solid effort, top to bottom,” Hallman said. “The dynamics of this team are totally different than last year because we have that cushion with eight kids playing. We have that relief of not having to play lights out every time out because someone else can pick them up now, and they can play a lot more relaxed.”
Hallman said the team has talked about a return trip to state and improving on their ninth-place finish, but the season is more than that. He said they are focusing on getting better one day at a time, and even though they are playing in matches, even those are simply practice preparation for the big show at the end of the year.
“I believe this team has the talent to win a state title,” Hallman said. “I really do. I believe in this group of kids, and I have encouraged them to take one day at a time and do so in humility. I don’t want us to get to the end of the year and just be satisfied with getting to state. I want them to have the mind-set that they can go down there and compete for a state championship. I want them to have that mind-set, and if we don’t, we don’t, but I want us to prepare for that opportunity, so we are going to keep this positive and keep moving forward one practice day at a time for when it is going to matter the most.”
A busy week saw them continue the success they have had in the early going. The girls traveled to participate in the George Valentine Invitational at Brookside Golf Course in Ashland, a challenging par-71 course, on Monday, Aug. 14.
The team was third overall at 336, trailing only champion Ashland’s 318 and Canfield, which placed second with a 324.
Troyer’s 75 led the way for the Lady Pirates and put her tied for fifth place individually. Mast came in at 83, Williams carded an 87 and Halle Hallman shot a 91.
Garaway took on Strasburg at Willandale Golf Course, the home for both teams, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, and the Lady Pirates stayed hot, winning 169-219.
Williams turned in a medalist performance with a 41 while both Mast and Troyer fired 42s. Immel ended the day with a 44 that included a remarkable eagle on the par-4 fourth hole on the south course.
Strasburg was led by Emalee Nave and Rebekah Sugalski, who both fashioned 53s.
The Lady Pirates topped off their big week Thursday, Aug. 17 by turning in a winning score of 211.
Troyer finished big and ended with a medalist round of 38 while Mast and Williams both shot 45. Mikayla Weaver added a 52 for the winners on a soggy, humid night that saw neither team shoot particularly well.
Indian Valley was paced by Olivia Shaw’s 44 while teammates Keira Brown and Makayla Keathley, both of whom are terrific players who had scored well up until that point, struggled with the tricky old south side at Willandale.
“We have actually played well up until tonight,” IV head coach Harry Huggins said. “I’m not sure why it was such a struggle, but we are definitely capable of playing a whole lot better.”