When the 12 teams playing for the Div. II girls state golf tournament made their way to Columbus to tackle the Ohio State University Gray Course on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12-13, they all had one thing on their mind: chasing a state title.
On Friday morning when the starter asked the girls on the first tee box what they did, one girl said they had gone to bed early to prepare for the two days of intense golf.
Garaway junior Helena Immel had a very different answer. “We went and played laser tag,” Immel said to the starter.
Thus was the journey of the Lady Pirates, who then went out and played great golf despite their late-night shenanigans. They posted a school-record third-place finish with a final score of 681. That trailed champion Lima Central Catholic’s score of 652 by a wide margin, but it was only seven shots off the pace of runner-up Shelby’s score of 674.
“We definitely had some fun down there, and that was something that we wanted to make sure we did,” head coach Angie Miller said. “This should be about having fun and enjoying the experience. It can’t be all serious. There are times when you have to take your mind off of golf, relax and have some fun. I think it did them good to cut loose and have a blast just being teenagers. I thought we did a good job of being relaxed and playing our game in the end, and we were totally focused when it came time to play golf.”
As for the actual golf play itself, the Lady P’s were able to turn all of their attention toward putting forth a record-setting weekend.
“They were really excited in the end,” Miller said. “At first they were disappointed because we did get so close to being runner-up, but they realized how well they played and what they accomplished and felt really good about the way they played.”
Day one saw the Lady P’s parked in third place behind the two leaders, trailing Shelby by nine strokes. Garaway then came out on day two and improved by a whopping 13 strokes, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a strong and deep Shelby squad for second place.
Leading the way for Garaway was senior Jocelyn Troyer, who was coming off of a Second Team All-Ohio performance last year. She had long ago set a goal of earning First Team honors and did so by firing a 77-73-150, good for fourth place overall individually and a First Team spot.
“She struggled with the greens on that first day, and she was not pleased in the slightest,” Miller said of her senior leader. “She just couldn’t get anything going. We spent time afterward working on the greens and getting some confidence back, and she went out on day two and played a lot better.”
With the length of the Gray Course and the greens being tough to read, it made it tough for anyone to go really low, a seven-over-par score of 147 from Kyleigh Dull of Kansas Lakota being the top score.
For a player of Troyer’s caliber, who is used to shooting around even-par, the score of 10-over wasn’t thrilling, but it was good enough to earn her First Team All-Ohio.
“She’s such an amazing talent and has dedicated so much to this game. She deserves everything that comes her way,” Miller said of Troyer. “There really weren’t any scores that were that great.”
Like Troyer, Garaway’s other senior, Leigh Ann Williams, also has been around for the past four years and has participated in all four state tournaments, a rare achievement. Williams may have saved some of her best golf for when it mattered most, firing an 86-84-170 to finish tied for 22nd overall. Last year Williams shot a 187, good for a tie for 49th overall. Her improvement of 17 strokes was astounding, and Miller said although Williams was tough on herself for leaving some shots out on the course, it was a huge accomplishment for her to improve that dramatically and to post some strong numbers.
“I give Leigh Ann so much credit,” Miller said of the senior. “She has not been in the spotlight like Jocelyn has over the years, but she has been such an instrumental part of this program’s success. She may not be the star player, but she has been so good and so supportive of her teammates that she is the kind of kid that any coach would love to have. In my eyes she was a star because she helped us get to state every single year. She is going to leave here having accomplished so much in her career. Any girl would love to end up in her shoes.”
Immel’s 92-88-180 also was an improvement over last year’s overall score of 186, and Miller said Immel may have stepped up at the end of the year more than anyone.
“She really turned it up over the tournament trail,” Miller said of Immel. “She had some highs and lows throughout the season, but she was really strong and consistent over the last three tournament events. She can leave this year knowing she had done her best at the end when it mattered the most.”
Sophomore Mikayla Weaver was the lone newcomer who didn’t play last year at state, and she also withstood the pressure of the state tournament by carding a 92-89-181, good for a tie for 31st place.
“She really did a great job of handling the pressure, and for her to get into the 80s on the second day was phenomenal for her,” Miller said of Weaver. “All year long Mikayla has been so incredibly consistent, and she just went out and played her game. I really think all of the work she put in during the summer prepared her for this moment, and it wasn’t too big for her. The competition she played this summer helped her immensely because she played in a lot of quality tournaments and showed some real work ethic. She is going to be a player.”
When it was all over, the team went out and celebrated by dining at a Chinese restaurant. The food and fun of going out to eat also was something the girls talked a great deal about, and to be able to spend one final dinner together, rehash the weekend events and revel in the thrill of a school-record finish was a perfect way to put an exclamation point on the state championship tournament.