The 2014 golf season proved to be a memorable one for the Belleville West Maroons, who advanced to the sectional tournament for the first time in over a decade and senior Mikaela Hickey capped a solid four-year career with a 38th-place finish at the Class AA girls state golf tournament.
Now comes the sequel.
“I guess you could say this is a rebuilding year,’’ Maroons coach Elaine Souders said. “We had a great season a year ago by getting to the sectional for the first time in a very long time and then getting to watch Mikaela (Hickey) not only qualify, but also play very well at the state tournament, was a great way to cap it off.
“We’re pretty inexperienced in that we’ve got one player, Kelsey (Gaby), back who played on the varsity all the time and two others in Brooke Ingram and Kelly Shea who played in a few matches. The good news is that we’ve got a good group of players who are enthusiastic about working hard and improving as we go on. They all have great attitudes and I’m looking forward to a successful season.’’
West struggled out of the gate Thursday.
Playing the back nine at St. Clair Country Club in Belleville, West placed fifth in the six-team Goalby-Haas Invitational.
With Gaby leading the way with a 54, West finished with a 239 total — 56 strokes in back of champion O’Fallon.
“It wasn’t a good day, but the back nine at St. Clair is difficult and for some of my girls it was their first varsity match,’’ Souders said. “Kelsey (Gaby) wasn’t happy shooting 54, but she still was only five strokes out of tying for a top-eight finish. I don’t expect we’ll see any more 54s from her this year.
“I’m thinking that she’ll be in the mid 40s each time out and that Brooke (Ingram) and Kelly (Shea) should be in the upper 40s. If we can find that fourth score in the low 50s, we should be fine.’’
While Gaby, Ingram and Shea are all seniors and players Souders is looking to be leaders, juniors Claire Harter, Lauren Heffron and Addison Mitchell are among those players looking to break into the top eight.
Sophomores Cassidy Caliper, Trinity Stern and Georgi Warren, along with freshman Sydnie Smith. are still fairly new to golf.
“Actually, we’ve got four girls who basically started playing earlier this year,’’ Souders said. “The good news is that they all took lessons and actually played this summer so we’re not starting at the beginning with these girls. They are all really excited about learning the rules and proper golf etiquette. That’s a big part of the game.”
In an effort to find a top six early in the season, Souders plans to give all 10 players a chance to play. West will compete in the Mascoutah Invitational on Saturday, then will compete in a quadrangular Monday at Stonewolf Golf Course.
“I’m just going to give them all a shot at playing in a few matches and see how they can play,’’ Souders said. “I think a good goal for us right now is to shoot 200 or better. We’ll be fine.
“Like I said, it’s a great group of girls and I’m looking for us to steadily improve as the season goes on.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.