With 11 tournaments on its 2016 schedule, the message sent by O’Fallon girls golf coach Chris Eddy to his team was clear from the first day of practice this season.
Returning several players from a squad which qualified for the Class AA State Tournament a year ago, Eddy is trying to get his team ready for a return trip to Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur — site of the state finals — in early October.
“I told the girls that I was loading up the schedule this year with more tournaments against tougher competition on more challenging golf courses to get them prepared for the postseason,’’ Eddy said. “Our goal is to get back to the state tournament and everybody is expecting us to get back.
“But people don’t realize that our sectional is against teams from Moline to Carbondale. It won’t be easy and we’ve got to continue to get better. That’s what we’re trying to do.’’
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With wins at the Goalby-Haas Invitational, Mascoutah Invitational and the Marquette Blastoff Classic, Eddy has his team right on track towards a return trip to Decatur. Led by reigning Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year, Emily Marrs as well as juniors Alyssa McMinn, Brooke Boatman and Natalie Meinkoth, the Panthers have been in a class of their own in the early going.
“We have four girls who have played a lot of golf and two girls who haven’t played much at all. They make up our top six players,’’ Eddy said. “Of our top four any one of those girls is capable of being our low player on any given day. They are all capable of and have broken 80 this year.
“Another positive is that our No. 5 and No. 6 players — Briana McMinn and Liz Boehning — have already counted in a match this season. If we can get four scored in the upper 70;s to low 80’s then have two scores in the mid to upper 80’s, that would be great. That’s what we’re working towards.’’
A balanced attack
Alyssa McMinn and Meinkoth already have victories to their credit this season. McMinn won the Goalby-Haas Invitational at St. Clair Country Club in Belleville, while Meinkoth took home medalist honors at the rain-shortened Blastoff Classic this past Saturday.
Boatman, one of the more consistent players in the metro-east, has been steady, while the gifted Marrs, while not playing her best, has still be solid in the early going.
“We’re working on some things with Emily. She’s coming along and I’m sure she’ll be fine. She just has to relax and have fun,’’ Eddy said. “She has a lot of ability. Anybody who can shoot 73 at Spencer T. Olin (Alton), a course in consider one of the toughest around, is a good player.
“Alyssa (McMinn) and Natalie (Meinkoth) have both played well and Brooke (Boatman) has been very good as well. The good thing about this group is that I’ve got five juniors and a sophomore and so they’ll all be back. That’s great for our program.’’
The Panthers will host their own 13-team invitational on Sept. 8 at Tamarack Country Club in Shiloh before competing in the River Challenge on Sept. 17 at the Orchards in Belleville.
“We’re going to Pekin the following week (Sept., 24) where we’ll see some of the better teams in central Illinois,’’ Eddy said. “Our first goal is to get back to the state tournament. If we do, I would think a middle-of-the-pack finish is realistic.
“People don’t realize the difference between Class AA and Class A. The winner in Class AA last year (Hinsdale Central) shot 617. The winner in Class A (Rochester) had 675. That’s 58 strokes difference.’’