Back-to-back-to-back: That was the slogan on the shirts of the fans of the Lady Pirates Garaway golf team.
Three years running the Lady P’s have made a trek to state, the third one being this year when Garaway played in the Div. II state tournament.
While it may seem old hat for Matt Hallman, head coach of the Garaway Lady Pirates golf team, he will never doubt the pressure the girls face when staring down that first tee at the state golf tournament. Nor will he doubt the pressure of the 36th and final hole of the two-day tournament.
Facing loads of pressure, the Garaway girls golf team traveled to Columbus Oct. 13-14, where they participated in the 2017 Div. II girls state tournament on the Gray Course at the Ohio State University.
Hallman said that for those who understand the game of golf, they will never know the pressure these kids face until they experience it firsthand.
“This thing is three days of go-go-go, and there is so much pressure attached to it,” Hallman said. “I think it is important to try to keep things light and fun when they aren’t on the course because of the incredible pressure they are under when they do tee it up. You just try to get them to relax as much as they can and hope that relaxed attitude filters over into the rounds.”
And while the Lady P’s didn’t shoot the numbers they had hoped for or finish as high as they wished, it was a large improvement over last year and marked the third straight year the program has qualified for state.
Garaway shot a 700, good enough for sixth place in the 12-team field, and Hallman said he could not be prouder of the effort the girls put forth, both in the state tournament and throughout this past season.
“I am so proud of each of these girls for the commitment they have made to themselves and to their teammates to get better and be a big part of this team,” Hallman said. “This has been such an incredible season. We improved across the board, and it was fun to see them respond to the challenges they faced this year.”
On day one while Jocelyn Troyer was doing her best to repeat as an All-Ohioan by firing a 78, it was Garaway’s Kalyn Mast and Helena Immel who were posting great rounds. Immel fired an 89, a terrific score for her on the Gray Course, while Mast carded an 87. Combined with Leigh Ann Williams’ 93, Garaway pulled in after day one with a 347, good for a tie for fifth with Newark Catholic.
Coming off a ninth-place finish in last year’s tournament, this was a marked improvement for the Lady Pirates.
While the Lady P’s trailed eventual champion Independence (320) by 27 shots, they were in great shape to improve in leaps and bounds from last year.
Day two began with high hopes, and Troyer was able to turn on the jets, getting off to a hot start and staying in the zone in fashioning a 73, which moved her into the top 10 and pushed her to her second All-Ohio honor.
However, the rest of the team struggled more than it had on day one, and that jeopardized any gains they might make over last year. Mast and Halle Hallman both carded 93s on the day, Williams shot a 94, and Immel came in at 97. That left Garaway in sixth place overall, just ahead of Edison and Waterford. Troyer’s 151 was seven shots better than her pervious state tourney appearance a year earlier. Mast’s 180 was a five-shot improvement while Williams’ 187 was nearly identical to last year’s score. Immel, however, improved her score drastically from a year ago, carving off her 186, a whopping 38 shots better than last year.
“There were times where each girl played very well and times that each of them struggled,” Hallman said. “As a new coach I learned a lot about how to prepare and to make changes. We moved from ninth to sixth, and we have a great team coming back and some talented eighth-graders coming in, so we are excited about the future.”
Hallman said it was agonizing at times watching the scoreboard with Troyer, who just like last year had to wait until every score was in to see if she had procured a spot as an All-Ohioan.
“That is awesome for her,” Hallman said of Troyer’s All-Ohio nod. “Yesterday and today she was two very different players. Today she was relaxed, and it showed in her score, and every year she gets better physically, mentally and emotionally as she matures.”
As for Mast, the lone senior on the squad, Hallman said her loss will be felt in many ways.
“I just encouraged Kalyn as she walked on the last two holes to be grateful to have the opportunity to be here three years in a row,” Hallman said. “She has had a great season and improved vastly, but she has been such a model for our kids to follow. She has such great leadership qualities, and wherever she goes next, she will definitely be successful because of who she is.”
Mast came up to 18 and struggled on her final couple of shots on day two, and once it was over, the emotions of playing her final round, her final hole, hit home. After collecting herself, Mast shared her thoughts on what it was like to lead a young group of talented players.
“I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and what this team has accomplished,” Mast said of their finish and being at state three times.
As a mentor to the younger kids, Mast even garnered a new nickname: Team Mom.
“I make sure they eat right, and most importantly I tried to tell them how to go out and have fun and enjoy the game,” Mast said. “It is just a game at the end of the day, and the experiences we had are what I’ll remember the most.”
Mast said her experience in golf has taught her to be patient and how to move on when things don’t go her way.
“It’s a lot like life,” Mast said. “You have to move on through rough patches, through ups and downs. You have to work through things. I feel totally blessed with my experience, and I give it all to God for allowing me to have such a great experience.”
Mast said she will head to Walsh University to pursue a degree in physical therapy. The rest of the Lady P’s will learn from this year’s tournament run and come back next year one year wiser and ready to make it back-to-back-to-back-to-back state appearances.