LINDA BLOOM INVITE: 18 holes, room to grow for Bobcats

Past, present and future came together Tuesday morning at the third annual Linda Bloom Invitational.

Bloom, a former Marshalltown girls golf and swimming coach who passed away in December 2011 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Known for her excellence in bringing people together, eight squads took part in a highly competitive field offering for some teams – including the Bobcats – a first opportunity at 18 holes this season.

Led by a fifth-place performance from Ashley Harris (85), Marshalltown finished with a score of 395 to take sixth in the field.

Ottumwa’s Darby Patritto shot a 10-over 81 to claim medalist honors as the Bulldogs took the team title with a tally of 343. Grinnell was second (356) and runner-up Josie McMartin propelled Grundy Center (368) to third.

Following an honorary tee-off for Bloom, Marshalltown’s first 18-hole effort was a mixed bag, though a valuable experience that the Bobcats can build from moving forward.

“Right now it’s an adjustment period,” MHS coach Lucas Johnson said of his squad, which will play 72 holes in four meets over a seven-day span starting Thursday.

“I’m pleased with our first 18-hole meet, but there’s lot of room for improvement. A lot of the girls weren’t happy with their short game and each of them felt they could have dropped four or five strokes.”

Harris, who fired a 39 on the front nine, noticed a definite difference in doubling her workload though she’s confident the Bobcats will be that much better prepared for their second go-round.

“I definitely did better on the front nine than the second nine. It just kind of died off a little,” Harris said. “Now that we’ve played 18, I think we’ve got it down. Continuing to play 18 will help us along the way.”

Niccole Wolken shot 100, while Kallie Davis (104) and Madison Sogge (106) completed the Bobcats’ scoring quartet.

Coming off an NICL West Division Championship title performance the day before, the Spartans are also looking ahead with confidence after Tuesday’s outing.

“Playing back-to-back 18 hole courses is a new experience for our girls, but it will be invaluable for us going forward,” Grundy Center coach Rick Schupbach said of the 48-hour effort, which served as a good simulation of the Spartans’ hopeful final destination – the state tournament.

“Our girls won’t play against anyone better this year. We might play someone as good, but not better,” said Schupbach of the competitive field Tuesday.

“It just puts you in that frame of mind for state. That’s what was so invaluable for us.”

McMartin toured the front nine with a 37 to lead Grundy Center, while Lindsay Freeman (93), Baylie Wrage (95) and Hillary Samo (97) contributed to the Spartans’ scoring foursome.

The Bobcats head to Southeast Polk Thursday for 18 holes starting at 10 a.m. The Spartans travel to Cedar Falls Friday with tee-off set for 3 p.m.

Notebook

Linda Bloom was the Bobcats girls golf and swimming coach before passing away in December 2011 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Father Tom Braak did the honorary tee-off for Bloom and said it was an emotional experience. Braak also conducted Bloom’s funeral and helped out with the girls golf team. “I was almost in tears,” Braak said of the tee-off. “(Linda) was a wonderful mother, wife and person. She expected a lot from the girls, but she never expected them to give more than she gave of herself. She worked so hard for them.”

Bobcats coach Lucas Johnson knew of Bloom through his sister-in-law, Anna Buzbee, who swam for Bloom. Johnson also heard more about Bloom through several MHS student-athletes that he knew who all shared the same positive experience of working with her.

“One thing that people who played for her always talk about is how she did such a great job bring athletes together,” Johnson said. “She was able to bring a team together so well and really finding that team aspect in individual sports.”

Ottumwa finished fourth at state in Class 4A last season and is ranked No. 5 in Class 5A this year. Grinnell is the third ranked squad in Class 4A.