Attica — The Harrison Hills Golf Course provided a good test for the Lebanon and Western Boone girls golf teams on Wednesday during the Seeger Invitational.
The Tigers placed second in the Invite with a 398, second to only Southmont with a 385.
“Harrison Hills is a long course, and it is a beautiful course in great condition,” Lebanon head coach Mick Milakovic said. “We like to play the tougher courses. It doesn’t really matter to me who we play, it matters where we play. This first week we play four quality courses.”
With five of the eight Sagamore Conference and sectional opponents, in the field, Wednesday was a good pre-season test to see where the Tigers stacked up against some of their opponents in big meets later in the year.
The Tigers were missing one of their normal starting five on Wednesday as well, so there is a lot to build on.
“We were missing Kate Mayner, she had a family obligation to take care of and we missed her, but we are still learning,” Milakovic said. “It is going to be a great conference and sectional tournament this year. Today proved that from just this field, there are three teams that have a shot at the title.”
Western Boone, playing in their first tournament of the season, placed fourth with a 425.
First-year head coach Katie Swisher said it was a decent starting point for the girls.
“I think most of the girls knew the course would be difficult, but we had a couple that had no idea what to expect,” Swisher said. “For the first time playing an 18-hole tournament, there is definitely room for improvement, but I thought the girls handled the course pretty well.”
Individually for Lebanon, Katherine Patterson led the team and was second overall with a 91.
Ella Taylor was close behind with a 94 and Lauren Gascho fired a 99. Brittney Crum shot a 114 and Brooke Reeves shot a 115 to round out the Tiger five.
“I think we were pretty average today overall,” Milakovic said. “It was nice to see Brittney Crum and Clara McQueen (who played as the sixth golfer) get their first varsity matches in today. The earlier we can get the freshmen in with some varsity experience, the better.”
Seniors Rachel Conyer and Lily Williamson led the Stars with 93s.
“I think they were a little disappointed with their scores, but it was just putts today,” Swisher said. “They were still striking the ball well, swinging well, and I thought they did a good job with course management. We just had to make more putts.”
Addy Bascom shot a 119 for the Stars, who also got a 120 from Emily Depuy and a 122 from Nola Dickerson.
Swisher said that Wednesday’s round will give all the girls a foundation in which to build from.
“Today gave us a good baseline and showed us some of the things we need to work on,” Swisher said. “We are used to playing a pretty easy course at Cool Lake, so coming here, it shows the girls a different style of course and how we have to stay out of trouble. A lot of our shots today, we weren’t in trouble, and this is an easy course to get caught in the traps our behind trees. Our course management and keeping the ball in the fairways and on the greens was a highlight from one to five.”
Western Boone will face Clinton Prairie and Clinton Central in a three-way match today at 4:45, then be off until next Wednesday when the Boone County Tourney comes to Cool Lake.
Lebanon will have a day of practice before playing in the Harrison Invite on Friday and then the Twin Lakes Tournament on Saturday.
Milakovic said that the Tigers will use the day of practice to work on a couple of things that he was able to see in the past two tournaments.
“We really haven’t had a chance to practice any fundamentals because we have only had a couple practices,” Milakovic said. “I wanted to see what their scores were like and where they were before I assessed what we need to work on. Now that I have seen them play a couple of times, there are some things that stand out. We are going to talk about rhythm and tempo tomorrow, and little things like alignments, posture and grip. Where we are losing most of our shots right now is by the green.”
Stars ready to start season under new leadership
For the first time in nearly two decades, there is a new coach in charge of the Western Boone girls golf team.
Koren Gray stepped down in the off-season, with Katie Swisher taking over the reigns this season.
“Coach Gray coached when I was in high school, and I have the utmost respect for her,” Swisher said. “I inherited a group of girls that are sweet, nice, know the courses and rules and have beautiful swings. I was given a gift thanks to her. She is sweet and I am a little more aggressive in our coaching styles, and I think some of the girls were a little intimidated at first, but I think after the summer and first few days of practice they see that I am here to teach them to love the game of golf ultimately.”
When it comes to expectations for the season, Swisher said the focus is on getting the girls ready for the second and third Saturdays in September, when they have the conference and sectional tournaments.
“I would like to be competitive in the conference,” Swisher said. “Southmont shooting a score like they did today, and Lebanon will be a team to contend with too, they showed they will be tough. My eye would be on the conference, and then trying to cut as many strokes as we can heading into sectionals so we can compete there.”
The Stars return three players from their line-up from a year ago, with Rachel Conyer, Lily Williamson and Addy Bascom. Micara Hawkins is also back on the team and will have a chance to play some varsity.
Western Boone lost two players they thought they may have, when Emily Viall graduated early and then Stasia Reinholt transferred to University.
That opened up spots for players like Emily Depuy and Nola Dickerson, and Swisher said the leadership of Conyer and Williamson will be big to bring them up to speed.
“The maturity that they bring to the team is tremendous,” Swisher said. “They are helping some of the younger players that are nervous with things. Just the way they carry themselves in practice and their work ethic — they are great role models for those younger girls.”
Swisher said for this early part of the season, there are a couple of things she wants to focus on in practice.
“I definitely think our short game is something we have to work on,” Swisher said. “The chips and putts are so important. Everyone thinks they have a problem with their driver or off the tee, but a majority of strokes are lost in or around the green. We have to get to the point where we are a chip and a one or two putt.”
Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.