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After posting one of the top seven regional scores and not finishing outside the top five in any tournament this season, the Lady Rockets’ golf team is forcing the competition to take notice.
But despite being in one of the top three groups at the State Tournament at Bowling Green Country Club this Friday and Saturday, the Lady Rockets still are considered an outsider for the title.
“We’re getting a little respect being in one of the top groups, so I don’t feel like Rodney Dangerfield any more,” SCHS Coach Anna Simpson said. “We’re still a dark horse, even though we’ve beaten all the teams that made state that we’ve played. And the teams we haven’t seen, we’re at least comparable with them.”
The reason the Lady Rockets rank outside the favorites is because of the team’s balance.
The girls don’t have that No. 1 player who is going to go under par every time out.
“People notice when someone shoots par or under par,” SCHS junior Michaela Manley said. “But they don’t notice when everyone is in the 70s and low 80s.”
And that’s exactly what the Lady Rockets have: balance that comes from spots one through four.
“We’re not relying on one person to go low,” SCHS sophomore Shannon Harover said. “We all have to play well.”
Simpson said she believes that’s a benefit to for the team and helps them play loose.
“We have to play as a team and rely on each other,” she said. “It’s good to know that every player around you has a chance to shoot low. Plus, it helps the girls take some pressure off. Last year, the girls made state, and they all played well, but [former state champion] Candice [Wiley] had four saddles on her back. Now, everybody can and does carry their own weight. There’s no pressure that you have to go low, in case you have carry the whole team.”
A perfect example came in the Lady Rockets’ last trip to Bowling Green for an invitational in September at the country club.
Eighth-grader Jordan Webb jumped up to shoot an 80, leading the Lady Rockets, and Manley was next, with an 82. Harover, breaking in a new set of clubs, and seventh-grader Madison Thomas, both shot 90s.
“I think that’s going to help us a lot, because we know what we can do in a tournament on that course,” Harover said. “We were only three-strokes behind Sacred Heart last time.”
The Valkyries have topped Shelby County several times this year, most recently in last week’s region tournament, but the Lady Rockets are gunning for them on the biggest stage.
“A lot of people think they’re going to win – I’m not so sure of that – but if we have a good day we can win, too,” Harover said.
Manley, the team’s elder statesman, was a bit more cautious about gunning for just one team.
“Our whole team wants to beat them, and it would be nice, but we want to beat everybody,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard, and I think we’re going to make people take notice.”
The State Golf Tournament
The Girls’ State Golf Tournament at Bowling Green Country Club will tee off Friday, and the field will be cut in half for Saturday’s final round.
The first groups will begin play at 7 a.m. CST, and the final pairing will begin play at 1:09 p.m.
Shelby County will tee off on No. 10 and play with Loan Oak and Notre Dame; the tee times are:
No. 5 Lilly Young, 12:15
No. 4 Madison Thomas, 12:24
No. 3 Jordan Webb, 12:33
No. 2 Shannon Harover, 12:42
No. 1 Michaela Manley, 12:51
Bowling Green Country Club will have just finished hosting the boys’ State Tournament, so the course should play pretty slow for the girls. Last year the course played between 5,700 and 5,800 yards, and Coach Anna Simpson said she expects the same this year.
“I think it sets up well for our girls,” she said. “They seem to be very comfortable on that course.”
With heavy tree lines, Simpson said the course reminds her of Shelbyville Country Club, except there is less water.
The girls know staying out of the trees and staying focused will be the key.
“All the holes are pretty hard, and the trees can give you a lot of trouble,” Manley said. “It’s not an easy course at all, you can’t take a hole off.”
The team favorites
Sacred Heart posted the best regional tournament score and won the Bowling Green Invitational in September, so the Valkyries appear to be the favorite, but several teams will be gunning for them. Simpson noted Green County and Glasgow as front-runners as well, with Shelby County in the group just behind them. Sacred Heart beat Shelby County by just three strokes, 342 to 345, in the invitational.
“We have to play well, but we can play with those teams,” she said.
The individual favorites
It looks like, individually, everyone is playing for second. Defending champion sophomore Emma Talley of Caldwell County destroyed the Bowling Green course last year, setting the course record at 7-under on the first day and finished with an 11-under to demolish the state record by six-strokes. Talley also won the invitational this year, with a 6-under 66, and was the only player under par.
The favorites among those trying to catch Talley will be North Hardin freshman Lydia Gumm (last year's runner-up), and Sacred Heart senior Lindsay Gahm.