By Breven Honda
The White Pine girls golf team entered their match on Sept. 21 looking to capitalize with favorable conditions.
Of the eight players who competed for head coach Tami Church, five finished with a score of at least 130 strokes.
White Pine needed four to score in the team category.
In fourth place was Riley Taylor, recording 127 strokes, which was three shots better than McKenna Barney and 11 in front of Faith Ellis.
In third place for the Bobcats, Payton Walker scored 119 and taking the top two spots were Macayla Bybee and Kylee Knudsen, who recorded 103 and 102 strokes, respectively.
“They’re looking to break 100,” Church said of her top two scorers on Sept. 21 after their match. “That’s their goal right now. They’re about 20 shots away from getting any kind of college scholarship or anything. I mean if they can break 80, they would easily go D-1.”
Knudsen and Bybee placed second and third, respectively, for the entire tournament as White Pine went on to dominate team play with 449 strokes, winning by 53 over Wells.
“It’s crazy. They played so well,” Church said. “Most of my girls improved by 30 some strokes. They all improved a ton. I think it was 520, that’s the lowest we had scored (previously), and we jumped down to a 449.”
Throughout the season, the Ladycats have continued to reduce their team score as it reached under 450, an average of 112 for the top four scorers.
Despite smaller stroke differentials as the schedule has transpired, Church said their match to win by more than 50 strokes this past week changed the notion of what this team can do the rest of the way.
“I think we put a statement out today. It was pretty impressive,” Church said.
Church, who has also coached other high school sports, such as volleyball, said a big reason for the team’s success is because of the confidence they have, even without playing at their best.
“They’ve gotten to the part where they’re starting to think they’re good, and so they play better because they know it,” she said. “It’s that inner, inner self that said, ‘This is within reach, and I can do this.’ They’re starting to believe in themselves.
“That helps a ton. I can tell you that they still can improve. We’re still not there at all.”
As much as this roster may seem to feature experienced players, it is really the complete opposite. This season, Church has not one, not two, but three seniors who are playing golf for the first time and they are playing at a high level.
One player took off 30 strokes at Battle Mountain.
Church said it is fascinating to see the success from her senior rookies becoming leaders and energizers to this squad.
“It’s their first year, but they’ve bought in and they’re leading the pack,” Church said. “And they’re the ones who are really the driving force right now. It’s been a godsend.”
As much as the changes have been mental, Church said her team needs to improve on their short game to continue reaching their potential.
“They know and we drill it into them, ‘You got to putt and chip,’” the third-year head coach said. “That’s where you’re going to make up strokes. And I watched them today. We can surely improve on that.”
Being able to take strokes off around the putting surface is one of the biggest keys to lowering scores, no matter if you are a professional, an amateur, or even at a high school level or younger.
The difference in making two-putts versus three putts or getting up and down to save bogey goes a long way, especially looking back on a round while looking at the scorecard.
However, the key to every single round in a tournament is being able to quickly adapt to the greens and its speed.
“(Golf) is such a funny game because we just went to Elko and the greens were faster than crap and today, we are playing on very slow greens,” Church said. “So, there’s always an adjustment next week. We’re going to play on the fastest greens we’ll see at Wendover.”
When White Pine travels to Wendover, hosted by West Wendover, the players are going to face an entirely separate set of challenges than they did at Battle Mountain, in addition to the fast greens.
Church said the wind is also going to play a factor throughout the course from tee to green.
“Sometimes the driver needs to stay in your bag,” Church said. “Wendover is a target course, you stay down the middle, you don’t give into trouble. But if you pull out that driver and try to hit the big shot, you’re going to be out in the desert and take about four more strokes than you should, so we’re going to have that discussion a lot.
“You don’t have to be long. You just have to be straight.”
After heading into Wendover, the team has one more match before the East Regionals and the State Tournament.
Church said this team has the aspiration of advancing past the regionals and into state with the confidence and swagger.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever looked but that banner up on the wall in the high school doesn’t even have a regional winner on it for girls golf,” Church said. “This could be the first year and that would be pretty cool. We’d like to put 2023 up there.”