The Centralia Lady Panthers Golf Teams is ready for the season.
Head Coach John Finlay graduated five seniors from last season’s squad, but is not as concerned about that as some coaches might be.
The reason for his lack of pessimism, he said, is the three juniors and one sophomre he has swinging to step into varsity golf shoes.
ReaLee Smith, Kennedy Dickerson, Savannah Littrell – juniors and Tatum Phillips, a sophomore, Finlay said, have been putting in the green- and range-time to fit right in to varsity play.
As the season’s opening draws close, Finlay said he has seven girls out for the team.
“Coach Luke Gramke and I speaking with girls, we hope to have enough golfers to field nine golfers,” Finlay said.
The golf team is scheduled to open the season, September 2 at Fulton’s Tanglewood course against Harrisburg and Blair Oaks.
The ladies’ 12-match schedule includes two home matches, September 17 against Hickman, New Bloomfield and Paris and September 21 against Kirksville, LaPlata and Macon.
The team has also replaced the NCMC Tournament with the Troy Tournament, which they will play as their fifth match of the season.
Playing against the larger schools will provide he and Gramke with a good snapshot of their golfers’ abilities. “They will be facing some really good golfers out of St. Louis,” he said.
The Clarence Cannon Conference only has four girls golf teams.
The other three are Palmyra, Macon and Brookfield. He said he expects strong competition form Palmyra and Brookfield.
Districts are scheduled for October 12, but a location has not yet been designated. This year there will be no sectional meet.
Finlay is optimist about the team’s preparation and enthusiasm.
“ReaLee and Kennedy have played a ton of golf this summer,” he said. “ReaLee has exceeded over 1,000 holes since the quarantine started. They have both played a lot of golf and they have both been competing. Not only have they been playing golf, but they have been competing. Golfing against somebody really adds a lot.”
Finlay said Smith and Dickerson were on the average, playing seven to eight strokes lower than last season at this time, sometimes as many as 10 strokes better.
“They are playing some good golf, I am excited to see them compete this season.”
The duo are not the only ones who have been playing.
“Savannah has beet to every Monday morning open course we’ve had,” Finlay said. “She’s coming to every golf opportunity we offer. Tatum comes to several too. She gets a lot of golf in with her family, they are very much a golfing family… I’ve got some great kids to work with this season.”
The is at least one change coming this season.
Finlay said there would be another two classes added. “We will be going from two classes to four. It will open up a lot more opportunity for post-season play, but I have no idea where Centralia will fall in the new classes.
When asked what type of golf he and Gramke have been coaching the team toward, Finlay said they would be emphasizing the short game, which they did last season as well and saw it turn into a “major positive for the team… Get to the green in two and putt, that’s how you win, slow and steady. Strong, consistent golf, with strong, consistent fundamentals, work on discipline and play positive golf.”