Johnson hopes to change climate of MHS girls golf

First-year Marshalltown girls golf coach Lucas Johnson is seeking student-athletes for the Bobcat golf team. Because he knows having 10 girls out for the squad isn’t going to get it done in Class 5A.

For now, Johnson welcomes a deep group of underclassmen for the 2013 season. That in itself will be used as a positive.

“We don’t have any seniors on this year’s team so I will be looking for some strong leadership from our junior class,” said Johnson, who comes to Marshalltown from Appleton, Wis. “The best thing about having so many underclassmen is that they are receptive to feedback, and it is much easier to change habits.”

The first “habit” Johnson would like to change is the climate of the program over the past few seasons.

“I want to create a climate where the girls want to pick up a club on March 11 and continue that in the summer through November,” said Johnson, whose wife is Ashley Buzbee, a 2000 MHS graduate. “Playing that much golf is what will take us to the next level. And there is no shortage of courses to play on around here.”

One of the Bobcats who plays nearly year round is sophomore Ashley Harris, who qualified for the Class 4A Girls State Golf Meet last season as a freshman.

Harris will once again play in the No. 1 slot for Johnson. But playing for another state tournament berth is not what Johnson wants his ace to focus on.

“She does have high expectations and has put in the time,” Johnson said. “But she needs to take it one shot at a time. Looking that far ahead is premature. She needs to play the shot in front of her and the score will take care of itself.”

The juniors Johnson hopes to get leadership from are Katie Lynch and Madison Sogge, who are likely going to be slotted in the No. 2 and 3 spots.

The rest of the varsity lineup could be made up of four sophomores – Niccole Wolken, Shelby Brennecke, Kallie Davis and Natalie Kueny.

“We have 10 girls out for golf and one of those players has very little experience,” Johnson said.

The level Johnson wants his Bobcats to get to can happen. It will take time and effort, but Marshalltown should strive to be like CIML rivals Waukee, West Des Moines Valley and Ankeny.

Waukee is the defending Class 4A state champion and the Warriors return defending individual state champion Payton Mineer as well as third-place finisher Jasmine Wyzgowski and seventh-place finisher Kelsy Shay.

Valley was fifth at state last year, while Southeast Polk and Dowling Catholic also ended up in the top 10. The Maroons return Sarah Splittgarber, who was ninth individually.

“The CIML is always tough and will be again this year,” Johnson said. “I also think Johnston can be very good. Those are all programs we are aspiring to become.”

A special tribute by the Bobcats this season will be upon their uniforms. The Marshalltown golf shirts will have the initials “LB” on them, to honor former long-time coach Linda Bloom, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.

“That was mostly the girls’ idea,” Johnson said. “Some of them played for Coach Bloom and they wanted to find a way to honor her memory. The initials will be purple, too, because that is the color that represents pancreatic cancer.”

The first golf tournament of the season also has been changed to the Linda Bloom Invitational. That event kicks off the Bobcats’ 2013 season Thursday at the American Legion Golf Course, the squad’s home turf.

Tee time for Thursday is set for 10:30 a.m. Other teams in attendance include Ames, Des Moines Roosevelt, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Newton, Norwalk, Ottumwa, Southeast Polk, Waukee, Valley and Grinnell.