LAKEWOOD RANCH — This season was supposed to be nothing more than a rebuilding year.
After losing three seniors to graduation, few people knew what to expect from the Lakewood Ranch girls golf team this year — including new head coach Wendi Golden.
But that was before a junior transfer and a pair of talented freshmen emerged onto the scene, providing the experienced links the Lady Mustangs had been missing.
“I was under the impression that this was going to be a rebuilding year,” Golden said. “But the girls have worked really hard since mid-August and I’d like to think that I’ve helped them.”
After finishing eighth in the state in Class 2A last season, the Lady Mustangs spent a good portion of the summer out on the course looking to improve their swings with the hopes of achieving a winning season.
But nobody — not even the players — could have predicted that Lakewood would enter the district tournament a perfect 12-0.
“I just hope we can live up to expectations,” junior Brooke Mark said before the tournament. “This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but as it turns out, it’s better than any season we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Lakewood cruised through the regular season, facing little competition and defeating each of its opponents by more than 15 strokes. The Lady Mustangs were challenged in a few of their matches this season, including against Braden River and Riverview, but for the most part Lakewood dominated its opponents.
On Oct. 15, the Lady Mustangs closed out their regular season, defeating Booker and Port Charlotte, who forfeited the match. Last weekend, the Lady Mustangs traveled to Deep Creek Golf Club in Punta Gorda Charlotte, the site of this year’s district tournament, to prepare for tournament play.
“They know who they are going to play and they know how to play, so I have a good feeling about districts,” Golden said before the district tournament. “I believe in them and their abilities, so we’ll see what the post season holds.”
Those 18 holes proved beneficial as Lakewood finished second in the Class 2A-District 14 Championship Oct. 19. The Lady Mustangs shot a 365, finishing three strokes behind district champion Charlotte. Linda Luo earned match medalist honors with a 70.
So what can be attributed to the team’s success this season? The answer is twofold: hard work and a head coach who understands what the players are going through.
Each of the players spent significant time preparing for this season, resulting in an overall decrease in their scores. In a single season, Mark, who plays No. 1 and No.2 for the Lady Mustangs, has dropped 10-15 strokes off her score while freshman Allison Lindmann dropped 20 strokes while floating back-and-forth between the team’s No. 3 and No. 5 player.
“I thought I was going to be the worst one on the team,” Lindmann said. “I hadn’t played in awhile and I didn’t know how I was going to do.”
Golden has also brought an added does of energy to the team, which has kept the sport fun for the players.
“She can act like just as much of a kid as the rest of us can,” Mark said.
Golden agreed that keeping the game entertaining for her players has become one of her top priorities.
“I’ve tried to make it fun,” Golden said. “I tried to think back to all of the coaches that I had growing up and the best things about each of them and the things I enjoyed the most, and I try to replicate that in the way that I coach them.”
The Lady Mustangs will nowcompete in the Regional Championship Oct. 26-27 at Vineyards Country Club in Naples.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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