With the loss of their No. 1 golfer from last season, the South Putnam Eagles have a solid one-two punch, but it will be the consistency from third through fifth golfer that will determine how successful of a season it will be.
The Eagles have competed in three events thus far in the '08 campaign and head coach Debbie Steffy is optimistic.
Juniors Grace Aker and Heather Hughes anchor her squad and the improvement she's seen from a quad of sophomores has the coach excited about what's in store for her team.
"Especially (the improvement) out of our sophomores, I've seen them improve match to match. Some of their scores haven't gotten better or they had a few more strokes from match to match, but just the overall seeing that their catching on to things," Steffy said.
Something else Steffy addressed was the IHSAA rule change that limits and basically eliminates coaches coaching while their players are on the course. She's been impressed that her younger girls have been able to self-correct and when she asks, they know what they've done wrong and can react to it.
Leadership is something essential to a successful team and Steffy is sure her two juniors will provide that for the young squad.
"Our older girls, Grace Aker and Heather Hughes, have both been very consistent for us and we have to have that," she said. "They're good leaders too, so they're going to rub off on the younger kids -- their work ethic and things like that.
"They're trying to make that effort to get them more involved and be able to help them along, which is good. They're good kids, they do a good job and when they come to practice, they do the right things and that's what you want from your older kids so the younger kids see it. I'm confident they're going to be able to get really good leaders for us this year," she said.
With the season barely underway, Steffy discussed some of the strengths and weaknesses of her team. One area she was especially pleased with was her team's work ethic.
"They're all very interested, very excited about trying to improve their game. It's not a situation where we come into practice and they go through the motions and just hit balls. They really want to get better," Steffy commented.
The one aspect of the game that Steffy expressed concern about was the short game. She pointed out that in their three contests, they were losing a lot of strokes around the green, which is something she believes the team will overcome.
With two juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen, Steffy is confident her team will be able to achieve the goals they set before the season started.
"We'd like to repeat; we were county champions and conference champions, we'd like to repeat on those things. We think those are attainable goals, but we're going to have to get that third and fourth score to come down in order to be competitive in those meets," Steffy said.
The Eagles finished third at the Northview Sectional last season, but the depth and talent of the opposing teams have improved from a year ago.
"That's just one more obstacle. But I think those girls are up to the challenge to improve their scores in order for us to get there," she said. "I think we're hoping we can finish in that area (third) again, but we know there are some pretty strong teams there."
The lack of a solid third through fifth golfer is creating a good environment at the Eagles practice. Steffy believes the competition will make all the girls better and as the season progresses they will want to be part of the team that will carry on into tournament play.
"There's that little added edge of 'OK, I need to do this if I want to be part of that five, then I've got to be able to do this.' I don't think right now they're thinking so much about that, their thinking about improving things, but I think as the season goes they're going to want to be a part of that group that plays in the county, conference and sectional. It will be a nice little competition thing at practice," Steffy commented.
When asked out how she felt the season would progress for her squad, Steffy acknowledged she hoped it would be more of the same. She hopes her team will make the small steps during the season that translate into big successes at the end.
"I see us hopefully improving every match," she said. "Not necessarily wins and losses, just improving from the standpoint, especially our sophomores, cutting those strokes off their scores. Hopefully at the end of the season we'll be right there competing for the county, conference and sectional, because those are the biggies."
"Like any other sport, those (regular matches) mean something, but it's the biggies at the end that we're gearing for," Steffy added.
The Eagles will host North Montgomery today at 4:30 p.m.