The Lima Central Catholic girls golf team has a shot at a third straight Division II state title this year and many are wondering can the Thunderbird linksters do it this season.
Led by the Mulcahy twins, Erin and Mary Kelly, the team returns all its golfers from last year’s state championship team, including juniors Olivia Garver, Emma Mayers, Leianhnni Smith, Carla Van Meter and sophomore Bridget Mulcahy.
“That is the elephant in the room,” LCC head coach Dan Reinicke said. “We haven’t talked about it. We have just talked about what it takes to get to the end of the year and to get down to state. We know we have to prepare, and I know I’ve talked to people all summer long and that is what they have talked about so I’m sure it is on everybody’s mind because all seven girls are back.”
Reinicke added that the majority of the focus has been getting better in preparation and throughout the season in hopes of getting a chance to defend their title.
“I thought it was tough being a one-time defender and now being a two-time defender,” Reinicke said.
Reinicke said the experience the team brings this year is a tremendous advantage in the quest for a third straight title because it is nothing new to them and added that even though he has the same team it may not be the same five competing at state.
Erin and Mary Kelly Mulcahy are pretty much a shoe-in to lead the team. The senior pair are the team leaders on and off the course and the two best golfers on the team. The Thunderbird duo have been to state the last three years. At state last season, Mary Kelly Mulcahy was sixth overall with a two-day total of 145, and Erin Mulcahy finished 11th overall with a 152.
Sister Bridget Mulcahy played in the No. 3 slot for much of the season with Van Meter and Mayers also competing on last year’s state winner.
“Let’s say it might not be the same five,” Reinicke said. “I have seven to pick from and by the end of the year we will see how it works out. Even the ones that haven’t played have been down there and have walked the course.”
Reinicke added that making it to state makes it easier on what they need to accomplish for the season but said there is the unknown about other teams and what they are bringing back this season.
“You never know who your competition is until the end of the year because they are coming from all over the state,” Reinicke said. “We are fortunate, and I believe a third of the teams that go to the state come out of our district because we are such a large D-II district. You don’t know who some of those are. We know some of the teams who were there last year but we don’t know how many they graduated, and they are probably wondering how many we graduated. You don’t know who was really close to going last year and how they are going to show up this year.”
Getting ready for the season is the same. Reinicke said the top priority is to get better each time they go out and play consistently and adds there is always room for improvement in everybody’s golf game and if they can be consistent that is the most important aspect of winning.
“We will show improvement from Aug. 1 to October,” Reinicke said. “Golf is a game where you don’t improve every week but you learn every week so with different situations you never been in before and how you play that and we will talk about during the season.”
Practice for the team began Saturday and the team enters its first tournament Wednesday followed by a tough early and busy schedule that Reinicke believes will help the team make it back to Columbus.
Reinicke said early on he has seen improvement from the girls from last year, through the summer to the first two days of practice and scores are better than they were last at this time and said playing junior golf has been a great benefit.
Like all other sports the COVID-19 pandemic has had its affect on the golfers Reinicke said in the sense that they have had to adjust to different rules at different courses, and they will have the same situations throughout the season.
“I think when we get to some tournaments they will all be a little different,” Reinicke said. “Some are telling us putting greens are not open and driving ranges are not open at some of the courses, and we can’t use them, and some are saying yes you can but they are socially distancing us to the point that we have specific tee times not only for tees but for our girls and can only hit at a certain time to hit balls and then go to the putting green at different times. It is a whole new regiment.”
Reinicke adds that they will have to wear masks up until they get to the first tee and then they can be removed depending on the golfer’s preference on whether they want to wear it while playing. Social distancing will also be maintained as well.
Reinicke has front loaded the schedule because LCC begins classes Aug. 11. Beginning on Wednesday they will play in the 2020 Allen County Girls Golf Championship followed by a dual meet with Wapakoneta on Thursday. On Friday, the Thunderbirds travel to Pickerington for a 30-team invitational and then head north Saturday to play in the Notre Dame Invitational in Toledo. On the next Monday they travel to the Sylvania Invitational followed by a playing in the Colonial Golfers Club Tournament on Aug. 11.
In the Pickerington and Notre Dame events, New Albany, the Division I state champion, will be participating in.
“We are busy right at the beginning and then take a break,” Reinicke said. “We will be up in Cleveland at the Independence High School Invitational, and they won the state two years ago so they bring a lot of teams and some Pennsylvania teams.”
Also on the schedule is the Cincinnati Alter’s Invitational that will feature top Division I and II teams.
Reinicke added that throughout the season he will be working with the team from a mental aspect and will have plenty of help from Shawnee Country Club professional Steve Mulcahy as well.
Reinicke remains confident his team can make it back to Columbus but it is going to take them playing their game.
“The Mulcahy twins have been pretty consistently shooting in the low 70s all year round, and I expect that will continue,” Reinicke said. “Their sister Bridget has improved and the other girls on the team Olivia, Emma, Carlie and Leianhnni have improved this year, and I’’ve seen those four girls post scores that would be good enough to get to state.
“It wouldn’t win our district but it would get us to state so as long as we can play consistent golf and as long as they shoot in the low 80s and the twins shoot in the low 70s that is what it is going to take to win again. I think we can do it and I think they can do it. I am not going to do anything but bite my nails.”