This year’s version of the Garaway Lady Pirates girls golf team doesn’t have any room for error. With just four players, if one of them isn’t there, they are done as a team. If they go into a tie-breaker, they lose as a team.
Fortunately for the Lady P’s, they have the power of sisterhood.
The Lady Pirates are as close as a team can get, and they all believe being as close as sisters played a key role in their trek to a Div. III state tournament berth in Columbus. Thankfully they had the power of the Sister Squad to help guide them back to Columbus.
With one team qualifying through to state in the East District tournament at River Greens Golf Course on Tuesday, Oct. 2, Garaway knew it had its work cut out for it because they had to stare down a Tusky Valley team that had beaten them three times this season.
However, Garaway knows a thing or two about finding their way to state, having done so nine out of the 25 years the OHSAA has hosted a girls state tournament and having been there the past three years. Led by Jocelyn Troyer’s two-under-par 70, Garaway was able to grind out a district win, defeating the runner-up Trojans by five strokes. Jocelyn Troyer fired a medalist round of 70, Leigh Ann Williams carded an 82, Helena Immel shot an 87 and Mikayla Weaver added a 99, and that was way more important than it sounds.
“We are tighter than we have ever been, and that bond plays a big role in our success,” Troyer said.
Troyer said even Jeff Willis, former owner of Willandale Golf Course and a teacher who has worked diligently with the Lady P’s over the years, has said how close-knit these girls are.
Head coach Angie Miller said for as much as an individual sport as golf is, it is far more enjoyable as a team.
“These girls understand the thrill and the joy of advancing to state together as a team,” Miller said. “They play for each other. They were under pressure every time out and couldn’t count on a fifth score to bail them out, and they did things together this year from the very beginning.”
That sense of sisterhood of playing for one another and being one together has led them through the rigors of the regular season and back to Columbus.
Troyer is Queen of the Hill – Sister Slam
For the second straight year Troyer earned medalist honors with a two-under-par score of 70. Great rounds are becoming second-nature for the star senior, and while the southpaw is naturally goofy and carefree off the course, on it she is all business.
“I am a huge competitor,” Troyer said. “I always want to do better. When Tusky Valley beat us earlier, it made me want to beat them even more.”
Troyer loves to have fun when she plays, but she is somehow able to balance that joy and zeal for life with a fierce competitive nature.
“When it is time to focus, it is time to focus,” Troyer said. “I know when to kick it in.”
As for playing the anchor role, Troyer, who has committed verbally to Malone University, said she relishes the chance to put her team into position to be successful.
Wanting to be her best – Sister Stress
Senior Leigh Ann Williams played a fairly solid round. She was great on her first nine but struggled a bit on her second nine.
Late in the round she started to stress out about where she was heading.
“I started playing poorly, and one ball went into the woods, and another went into the sand, and I thought to myself, ‘What are you doing Leigh Ann? You’re going to mess this up for everyone,’” Williams said with a laugh. “On the eighth hole (17th overall), I went up to Jocelyn and told her if we lost it would be my fault. I knew I could have been doing better, and I put too much pressure on myself.”
It turned out she was fine, finished well and helped her team secure a district title crown.
I want this for my sister seniors – Sister Selfless
Junior Helena Immel played a big role in the district title with a strong score of 87. She said she had set a low score of 85, and although she didn’t accomplish that goal, the score of 87 was key to victory.
Her first words about another trip to state was geared not toward herself, but toward her sister seniors.
“Going into this, I really wanted to win so our seniors could go for their fourth and final year,” Immel said. “I just kept telling myself to keep it together for them because they deserve it. They have been amazing to play with, and I couldn’t ask for anyone else to play with.”
Immel will step into the role of senior leader next year, and she said what she has gleaned from the two seniors and from others who have graduated during her career has prepared her well to step into that role.
Illness is not an option – Sister Sick!
Sophomore Mikayla Weaver was sick as she trudged along during district play. This was a gut-doubling, stomach-cramping, I-feel-like-throwing-up sickness that left her queasy and feeling weak.
By the time she got to the 16th hole, coach Miller said she was doing everything short of picking up Weaver and carrying her the final few holes.
However, Weaver realized one thing: She had to finish for her team to advance. Somehow she summoned up all of her courage and strength and gritted out the final holes. Her 99 was far from a stellar score, but under the circumstances Miller said it was a remarkable effort.
“I knew I had to finish,” Weaver said. “That was never a doubt. I knew my teammates needed me.”
Weaver didn’t play at state last year but did go down and watched and learned, waiting for her turn.
“I learned a lot about what to expect and how to handle the pressure,” Weaver said. “I have learned a lot from some really good golfers ahead of me, and I feel ready to give it my best.”
Four times the fun at state – Sister Seniors
Seniors Troyer and Williams don’t know that most golfers’ seasons end some time before Columbus. Both have played at state all four years of their career, something few golfers get to experience even once.
“There’s nothing like being at state with your sisters,” Troyer said. “You’re more comfortable knowing you are all there to support each other and to enjoy the experience together. I couldn’t imagine not being there without my teammates. Having been there three times before, we understand what it’s like and the pressure that comes with state, and it feels like our experience there is going to help us a lot because we understand it better.”
“There’s nothing else like it,” Williams said.
While golf is central, it is all about having fun and eating off the course. The Olive Garden is a must-stop, and there is plenty of fun to be had at the hotel.
The sisters enjoy every moment of the experience, and these two seniors have had the best of all worlds in getting to experience state four times.
Gratitude to an outside source – Sisters of Celebration
Garaway has gotten great coaching from Miller and superior play from all four players, but all of the girls and their head coach talked at length about what an important role Jeff and Suzie Willis played in their team and the success of the past four years.
Jeff and Suzie Willis have owned and operated Willandale Golf Course, home of the Pirates as well as Hiland and Strasburg, and have always welcomed the high school players with open arms. Jeff Willis has worked with many of them individually, but both husband and wife have been incredible encouragers to all of the players from all three schools.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without them,” Miller said of Jeff and Suzie Willis, who recently sold Willandale. “They have been an incredibly big part of who we are.”
“Jeff took my swing from horrible to fantastic, and he can look at a swing and see what is wrong with it, but the big thing is that he really cares about each of us, and he has been so encouraging over the years.”
The proper support system – Sister Siblings
While the bevy of seventh-graders aren’t yet officially members of the Sister Squad, they have become the team’s number-one cheerleaders. Middle school golfers Hannah Steiner, Sammi Miller, Brooklyn Numbers, Sydni Prysi and Olivia Immel have been behind this group from the beginning, and they are continually the ones sending positive vibes and words of encouragement to the four varsity golfers.
“They are a huge part of our team,” Helena Immel said. “They have been there every step of the way, and they are amazing in the way they support us.”
Sisterhood means a deep commitment to one another and a love for each other that extends beyond simply being teammates. The Garaway Lady Pirates foursome of golfers has grown to realize the value in caring about each other to the point that it is what drives them, what makes them play harder for one another and encourage and pick each other up at every turn.
Whatever happens at state, the Sister Squad is certain to make the most of every opportunity to turn the experience into one great memory.
There will be a state send-off for the team Wednesday, Oct. 10 at the Belden Community Center behind the football field from 6-8 p.m. The community is invited to join the team for a celebration with cake and ice cream as the Sister Squad thanks the community for its support.