LINDA BLOOM INVITE: Bobcats ascend to 2nd place
If there were any excuses to be made, Bobcat coach Lucas Johnson got them out of the way at Wednesday night’s practice.
Once Thursday morning’s tee time rolled around with brisk winds and temperatures hovering in the 30s, the Marshalltown girls’ golf team had nothing to worry about.
Embracing the far-from-ideal conditions, the Bobcats turned their attention to the links and claimed second out of 14 squads in the fourth annual Linda Bloom Invitational at American Legion Golf Course.
Marshalltown junior Ashley Harris tied for the top score with an 8-over 79 to lead the Bobcats to a 371 – a 24-stroke improvement from last spring.
Waukee’s Jasmine Wyzgowski matched Harris’ score and claimed medalist honors via a cardback on the second hole to lift the Class 5A defending state champions to the title with a 345. Wyzgowski shot a seven on the 508-yard, par-5 hole to edge Harris’ eight. Ankeny Centennial’s Karli Kerrigan took third overall with an 80.
Madison Sogge added a 96 for MHS, while Niccole Wolken and Natalie Kueny completed the team tally with 98s. Johnson was pleased to see his Bobcats put Wednesday’s discussion to use and not allow the adverse conditions to affect their play.
“We were mentally focused,” Johnson said. “We talked a lot at practice last night about the fact that there were going to be a lot of built in excuses for teams coming out here and saying, ‘We’re not going to have a great round because it’s so cold.’ We said, ‘We know this course and we know it’s going to be cold so we’re going to dress warm and play the best we can.’
“I didn’t hear any complaining from our girls. I heard a little bit out of some other teams but our girls did a nice job being focused.”
Ottumwa placed third in the field with a 377 and was one of six squads that competed in the state tournament a year ago. Mason City (391) held off Southeast Polk by three strokes for fourth, while Ames and Des Moines Roosevelt tied for sixth at 399.
Grundy Center, last year’s Class 1A state champ, finished eighth with a 402, while Newton (406) and Ankeny Centennial (408) rounded out the top-10.
Consistency carried Harris to her career-best 18-hole effort as she made par on 10 holes after starting with a birdie on No. 1.
“(My round) started out a little bit up and down, but then it got more consistent as it went through,” said Harris, who spent many hours on the links this offseason and saw it pay off Thursday, particularly on the greens.
“That was one of the worst parts of my game and it just got a lot better. That’s been my biggest improvement and I did very well putting today.”
While Marshalltown flourished with a tough-minded mentality, Grundy Center coach Rick Schupbach thought it was largely absent from his team.
“I’m a little bit disappointed more with our mental approach to things than anything else,” Schupbach said. “It was a very difficult day out there weather-wise with the way it started. I don’t think our mind frame was right where it needed to be and as a result, some of the girls got off to a difficult start and just weren’t able to right the ship.”
Lindsay Freeman paced the Spartans with a 92 and Hillary Samo shot a 96. Grundy Center got a boost from its No. 5 golfer, Kate Ross, who turned in a career-best 105, while Sarah Hockemeyer tallied 109.
“I was with (Kate) the entire front nine and she played fantastic,” Schupbach said. “Her mindset was great. She was really talking and thinking through things with me and it was just a joy to be with her and see that she’s a much better golfer than she was last year.”
Schupbach hopes that mindset flows to the rest of the team as they progress through the season.
“One of the things I’ve always prided our program in is that we’re mentally tough and that we like bad weather because it will help us to overcome in a close meet,” Schupbach said. “Against some teams that we play we can get away with that, but against good competition like we’re playing today, that’s not going to work.”
The Spartans hope Thursday is just their first 18 holes at American Legion Golf course, the site of this year’s Class 1A/2A state tournament – and where they claimed their Iowa-record 12th title a year ago.
The Bobcats seek a destination just a couple miles down the road where Elmwood Country Club will host the Class 5A state meet. Their runner-up performance was another step in the right direction, though Johnson said they still have more work to do.
“All the girls would still look back at their rounds and say they had places where they can improve,” Johnson said. “The girls should be really proud of where they’re at – especially at home with the Linda Bloom Invitational – it’s a special thing for us to have that good of a finish. There’s a lot for us to build on from this.”
The Bobcats will compete in the Valley Invite at Willow Creek Golf Course Monday at 10 a.m., while the Spartans compete against West Marshall at Lincoln Valley Golf Course Tuesday at 2 p.m. … Thursday’s field included six state tournament teams from last year including 5A’s Waukee, Ottumwa and Southeast Polk, 4A’s Grinnell and Newton and 1A’s Grundy Center.