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Friends and rivals

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Birdies and bogeys don’t get in the way of Collins’ Rylee Suttor and Shelby County’s Grace Clark’s friendship on the course.

By Brian Stone

As another school year comes to an end, Shelbyville golfer Grace Clark and Rylee Suttor are just seeing their schedules start to fill up with various summer tournaments over the next two months.

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Suttor, an upcoming senior at Collins, and Clark, an incoming sophomore at Shelby County, each excelled for their respective teams last fall and will embark on the solo season over June and July to help improve their skills and make a name for themselves state-wide.

The two first began playing together in the PGA Junior team competitions at a young age at Weissinger Hills Country Club, where Suttor served as a role model for Clark, who was just getting her feet wet as a golfer.

“Me and Rylee are really good friends, and we always go out and play all the time,” Clark said. “We just crack jokes with each other, and we actually started on the junior PGA, both on the Weissinger team. I looked up to her, and I had just started playing and I had no idea how to play golf.”

With several years and many tournaments having passed since the two athletes were first paired together, both have come a long way in their journeys as golfers, now with the two being respective No. 1’s for Collins and Shelby County high schools heading into this fall.

“I like having the team atmosphere there [during the school year] and playing against Grace a lot is really fun,” Suttor said. “We didn’t use to be friends, but we’re good friends now. We see each other a lot when we’re practicing, and we like to joke around a lot.”

The summer slate

Both athletes have extremely busy schedules set up for the next two months, with each working on becoming the best golfers they can possibly be.

For Clark, that means parlaying the success she experienced at last October’s KHSAA State Golf Tournament, where she led the Rockets with a two-day score of 78-79-157 finishing in 15th place finish, one of her most complete outings as a golfer in her young career.

“[2017 State] was my best two-day score that I had ever shot,” the SCHS golfer said. “It [state] was a really cool experience, and I played well both days. There were still a lot of things I could have improved on. The team was really proud of the score that I shot, and I thought it was cool I could shoot my best score at state.”

Clark admits that there is one summer tournament she has her eye on – The Kentucky Women’s Open, a major outing for upcoming players that kicks off midway through July.

Last year she was one of the youngest golfers at the event, and will once again compete with top-flight talent while working to sharpen her own skills.

“Last year I was the youngest to play in the Kentucky Women’s Open which will be at the Cardinal Club [in Simpsonville] this year,” Clark said. “I haven’t really played out there before, but I’ll be playing with people that are trying to get on the LPGA Tour. It’ll be harder competition and a harder course.”

For Suttor, this summer is just as much about improving as a golfer as it is being noticed by colleges and universities as she heads into her final season as a high school athlete.

“I want to make sure my scores are low enough to where colleges start to notice me,” Suttor said. “I’ve had a couple schools reach out to me about playing there. I had Centre College just come and watch me play the other day.”

The No. 1 golfer for Collins says that schools put more emphasis on how athletes fare during the summer months, largely due to the lengths of the holes and determining how golfers compete while outside of the customary team setting during the fall.

“Summer is better for colleges to recognize you. They [colleges] don’t really care about the high school season,” she said. “The yardages in high school season aren’t as long, so they pay more attention to summer tournaments.”

The ‘rivalry’

One would expect that when Suttor and Clark went their separate ways for high school that it would deter their friendship, but it could not be further from the truth.

Despite taking to the links for Collins and Shelby County as crosstown rivals, the two are as close as can be due to the amount of time spent together throughout the summer and school seasons.

“We’re playing together very often, we’re always entering the same tournaments. I’m really excited for that though,” Suttor said. “I like the fact that we play against Shelby County, but rivals aren’t really how you would consider us. You always do want to beat the other team though. It’s just a fun atmosphere when we get to play each other.”

Clark has one moment in particular as to when she and Suttor became close friends, sharing a laugh over a cartoon theme song, which became a running inside joke between the two while competing against one another.

“We were on [hole No. 9’s fairway at Weissinger] as partners and for some reason she started playing Caillou,” Clark said. “To this day we still joke about that. During high school season we both play No. 1’s, so we’ll both play together in matches and everyone expects it to be so serious because we’re rival teams, but me and Rylee just go out and have fun.”

Team leaders

When the individual summer tournaments start to wind down, both Clark and Suttor will find themselves as respective leaders for their high school teams.

Suttor will be the only senior on roster for the Titans this season, and will look to set an example for her young teammates.

“I think I will become a leader now that I’m a senior,” Suttor said. “All of our Collins golfers are younger than me now. I feel like I have to do better for myself, and show [teammates] how you can grow as a player and how well you can do no matter how you started.”

With a youthful team and Suttor looking as if she may be the leader in seniority and by example, the Collins athlete will look to guide her squad to the KHSAA State Meet later this fall and help lower the team’s overall scores over the course of the season.

“I’d like to see our team shoot in the 90’s and 80’s,” she added.

Clark will be the de-facto leader for her team, having anchored SCHS at the state golf tournament last season while being one of the oldest members of the team entering her sophomore year.

“I’m going to try to lead [Shelby County] the best way I can,” Clark said. “I’m just going to keep encouraging them to do their best. For a lot of my teammates last year was their first year at state. So I hope we can do better now that we have experience there.”