SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — When the Division II girls golf state tournament ended last year, Shawnee coach Nancy Clum began to cry. She was proud of what her team had accomplished and excited for the potential of next season.
Well, it’s next season.
The Indians finished tenth in that tournament, and everything is lining up for an even better showing this October. They know what it takes and where the trip will take them, and they’re ready.
“We are cautiously optimistic. You know how fickle golf can be sometimes,” Clum said. “The girls I have are hard-working, focused and want to go as far as they can go. They’re pretty excited about the season.
“They feel it would be a defeat if they don’t make it back to state and don’t place high in the state.”
Of those five golfers who played in the 36-hole state tournament, four are back, including No. 1 player Sheridan Balyeat, No. 2 Emily Crow, No. 4 Rebekah Rader and No. 5 Morgan Van Meter. Alternate Raven Venegas also returns.
They’re walking the tight rope without a net, setting the goal of making it to Columbus and nothing less. But that’s just fine with the Indians.
“I think we want to win every single dual and tri-match,” Balyeat said.
Crow added, “It makes us want to do better. I want to go back to state and do better, get at least in the top five.”
Transfer Lesli Stolly is filling in the No. 3 spot early in the season. She’s well aware of the pressure and expectations she walked into when she came to Shawnee from Lima Central Catholic.
“I just came out and played my game, hoped to fit in there,” Stolly said. “We have a good chemistry together.”
For the Indians to make it to the state tournament alone, and make a surge to the top of the leaderboard, they cannot rely on one player alone. They’ve already shown the depth at last week’s Celina Invitational at Fox’s Den, where Crow shot a 77 and Stolly a 78 to lead the team to a victory. Balyeat came in with an 82.
“Our team scores are a lot closer so we can rely on each other and not just worry about Sheridan and put all the pressure on her,” Crow said. “Everyone else can contribute to the team.”
It’s a refreshing problem for Balyeat. She obviously wants to shoot low every time out, but if she stumbles through a round or two she knows teammates are right behind her to pick up the balance.
“It helps to have a team where we can all shoot from the 70s to 80s,” Balyeat said. “Summer is different because it’s individual, but when you step up for high school golf it’s about the team. One person falls, you have the other people there to back you up.”
The Indians won another tournament last week, the Defiance Invitational at Kettenring. Balyeat shot an 81 to finish second among individuals.
The golfers put in hours on the course, mainly in the Lima Junior Golf Association events. Just to see where they stood, they took their top four scores and totaled them. Most of the time they came up with scores in the 330s.
They made it to state with a 366 at the district tournament.
“We were like, ‘Uh-oh, we could have a chance to place at the top of state this year,’” LJGA player of the year Balyeat said.
All signs are pointing that way.