March 15, 2014

Prep golf: Lady Catamounts are winning the numbers game

With 16 teams from around the state competing at Dalton High School’s Lady Cat Invitational golf tournament Saturday at Dalton Golf and Country Club, the depth of talent in girls golf for the Peach State was evident.

Unfortunately for several teams in Murray and Whitfield counties, they’re in a numbers drought when it comes to overall participation.

Host Dalton shot a 270 to finish third behind tournament champion Colquitt County (250), which finished third at the Class 6A state tournament last year. Blessed Trinity’s Gracie Henderson shot a 2-over-par 74, which included a 2-under 34 on the front nine, to lead the Lady Titans (254) to a second-place finish.

For Dalton’s girls, the tournament is a step toward a much bigger goal.

“We had a good year last year and finished third in the state, and our only goal this year is to win state,” Dalton coach Nancy Hallsworth said. “Mable McKone, Ashleigh Peters and Carson Palmer are all great golfers, but I have seven on this team that I could say that about.”

McKone, Peters and Palmer all shot rounds that counted toward the Lady Cats’ tally in the four-play, three-score format for girls golf for team scoring. They also accounted for the three counting scores at last year’s state tournament. On Saturday, Lyndsey Parker was also one of the four playing members.

Dalton had a B team of players that was made up of lone senior Olga Fouche, plus Baylee Mitchell, Lyndsey Young and eighth-grader Katlynn Skiffin, who is considered a junior varsity player and not eligible to play in any true varsity events.

Hallsworth said as the team continues to play in tournaments, the different varsity players will probably rotate through the four sent on the course to allow for competition within the team and find the best players for region and state tournament play.

“One of the biggest problems I have is who to play for score with the talent that we have,” Hallsworth said. “That is all thanks to the parents and to the staff here at the country club who get involved with younger golfers to help grow their game.”

It is a problem that other programs around the area probably wish they had. Northwest Whitfield had golfers competing in the tournament but had no chance to record a team score with just two players participating. Among Whitfield County schools, Coahulla Creek also has just two players, Southeast Whitfield has just one and Christian Heritage doesn’t yet have a girls golf program.

While those players can compete for individual titles in tournaments and can still earn a spot in the state tournament as individuals, team honors are out of the question for those schools.

“We are trying to find girls to play, but we just can’t get anyone to come out,” Northwest coach Steven Smith said. “I don’t know what it is. Girls aren’t into golf right now. I know that us and North Murray are looking good as far as next year with a good middle school class coming up, and sometimes it comes in waves.”

It is a comparative tidal wave for Dalton. The counting scorers for the Lady Cats were McKone (87), Peters (90) and Roberts (93). While the B team couldn’t compete for the team title, it would have tied its A team counterpart with scores from Fouche (87), Skiffin (90) and Baylee Mitchell (93). Parker finished with a 97, while Young had a 127.

“It is a great luxury to have,” Hallsworth said. “And the great thing about it is they all work so hard. We have been out here in the wind and in the rain, and they have even been playing out here and gotten snowed on a little bit. a

“We are trying to fine-tune our skill sets right now and improve as the season goes on. Our driving has been solid, and the girls are starting to play some really good golf.”

For Northwest, Marlee Bingham shot an 85, while Emilee McKinney finished with a 115.

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