The Bulls have a bright future.
If confidence is the most important ingredient for an athlete's growth, the girls golfers at Parrish Community High certainly have great potential.
"This interview is going to get me ready for the LPGA," Tabitha Hanley, the team's No. 1 player, said to Coach Erin Lisch.
Though Parrish Community is located north of the Manatee River, several of its students live south of it, including Hanley, a junior, and Marissa Krone, a freshman and the team's No. 2 player. It is both players' first year in the program.
Hanley is homeschooled but elected to play golf with the Bulls. The program, and the school, are in their second year. While this continues to be a formulative period, but that does not mean the Bulls aren't playing to win.
Hanley took medalist honors at an Oct. 8 tri-match against The Out-of-Door Academy and Saint Stephen's Episcopal at The River Club Golf Course, shooting 40 (four over par). Hanley said the best part of the season has been Lisch's guidance. Lisch promotes an atmosphere where learning and having fun go hand-in-hand.
Since Hanley takes private lessons, she is not able to attend every team practice. Hanley said that has caused friction on other teams, but Lisch not only understands, but encourages the individual work. And while Lisch gives Hanley tips, she also makes it a point not to give advice against Hanley's other instructors, lest that would lead to confusion.
Hanley said Lisch's approach has been working.
"I used to start with a bogey on the first few holes, just bogey, bogey, bogey," Hanley. "She (Lisch) helped me, and now the start of my round is a big strength. I start strong and I finish strong."
Krone gave Lisch similar praise, not just for her own improvements, but for the improvements to the whole team. Krone said she loves Lisch so much, she agreed to play tennis, which Lisch is also coaching, in the spring, despite never having played before.
It is Lisch's first year of teaching and coaching at Parrish Community after leaving the broadcast news world. Lisch said she didn't know what to expect from her players, or if anyone would want to play golf at all. It turns out, people did.
"I started seeing them play and said, 'Oh my gosh.'" Lisch said. "We're better than I thought we were."
When Parrish Community (214) scored better than Palmetto (223), Lisch's alma mater, in a Sept. 28 event at Palm Aire Country Club's Champions course, she knew things were trending in the right direction.
Postseason play for girls golf began Oct. 12. The Bulls finished fourth (475) out of six teams at their district tournament, held at The River Club. Hanley tied for second place in the individual rankings, shooting 11 over par (83). For the Bulls, this year is not about titles. It would be ridiculous to expect as much. This year is about a team learning to play and a coach leading them there. In the lead-up to the postseason, Hanley and Krone expressed bittersweet feelings on the season winding down.
"I'm excited to see how we stack up," Hanley said. "But I also am sad. This year has flown by and it has been so fun. I don't want it to end yet."
Isn't that the best compliment a player can give a program?
It will be exciting to watch these East County athletes grow with the program itself. Their confidence should only go up from here.