Greencastle girls' golf coach Brad Kingma understands that his team is young. He understands what this means. His team may have its share of struggles early in the year, but it may also have a big upside.
The potential for improvement by season's end is great.
"Our goal is to go out and improve, but we're really trying to put conference tournament and sectional as what we're really trying to build for," Kingma said. "We're using these early season tournaments as a learning tool."
Thus far on the season, the Tiger Cubs fell to Monrovia by 10 shots on Aug. 4 and finished 18th at the McCutcheon Invitational on Aug. 6.
But the matches that really matter don't come in August.
"We are looking particularly at conference," Kingma said. "We've already played Monrovia in a nine-hole match, and lost to them by 10 at Deer Creek, which is where the conference tournament is. We know that we certainly won't be favored, but we know that if we keep improving, we can show quite well, if not have a chance to win."
The Tiger Cubs squad will be led by three sophomores who lettered as freshmen in Chelsea Samuels, Diane Wokoun and Kristen Hutcheson. Samuels had an especially impressive debut season in 2007, as she quickly established herself as one of the Cubs' top two players, all while participating in both golf and volleyball.
Kay Wood, who was a junior varsity player as a freshman, is also back for her sophomore campaign.
A nice boost should come from freshman Katie Hedge.
"Katie played on the middle school team and she's been out here for a number of years now. She actually has as much if not more experience playing in competition," the coach said.
Michelle Nguyen, in her first year playing for GHS, will be the Cubs' only senior. Nguyen has not yet been able to play or practice, but should be joining the squad soon.
"We're young. We have the four sophomores and one freshman with Michelle being a senior. But so far, we've put out no one older than a sophomore," Kingma said. "They've all got ability. Chelsea, Katie and Diane have already put forth some decent scores for us that we would need."
The key, as it is for many squads, is finding that fourth scorer.
"One of the things that's going to be key is how quickly Kristen or Kay or Michelle can improve and give us that fourth score," Kingma commented. "They're close. They're hitting good shots; it's just about getting a little more consistency. It's going to require some patience here at the beginning until they get it."
One thing that gives Kingma real hope is the way his girls have handled themselves in practice so far. Girls' golf has a quick startup, with the first match coming just three days after the first practice. The coach thinks his team is picking things up quickly and improving at a nice pace.
"We don't get that two weeks of practice that other sports have, so they come in and play in matches. One of the things they've been struggling with is most of their shots were going right. We've been working on getting the right side through the ball and it's already improving," Kingma said.
"They've been working really hard," he continued. "We've been going out to practice, and they've been doing everything that's been asked. Even within a week I can see the improvements."
Especially encouraging is also the poise the Tiger Cubs have shown. In girls' golf, tournaments come at the beginning of the season, a fact that can be intimidating to young players. The coach has seen none of this.
"Going to the McCutcheon Invitational with like 20 teams, you're only paired with two other teams. They just go out and play. I didn't see any intimidation whatsoever," Kingma said. "Tournaments like that, we know we're not going to win, so we don't put that kind of pressure on them."
The Lady Tiger Cubs are back in action at 10 a.m. today at Terre Haute's Rae Parke for the Terre Haute South Invitational.