It’s somewhat rare in Indiana to find places with hills as steep as the ones surrounding the clubhouse at Bluff Creek Golf Course.
Certain spots on the course can leave golfers, and even the carts they’re riding in, wheezing and gasping for breath.
Those ups and downs might serve as a metaphor for the ups and downs that the Greenwood Christian Academy girls golf team is likely to experience this fall.
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The program began its inaugural season Tuesday afternoon at Bluff Creek, hosting University High School — and predictably, the results were fairly uneven.
GCA actually won the match, topping a similarly undermanned University squad. Freshman Sophia Valant led the Cougars with a 54, and though the numbers got a bit higher going deeper into the lineup, that disparity was to be expected, given the sizable gaps in experience levels between the players.
Valant is the team’s most experienced player, having played on GCA’s coed middle school team the past few seasons. Valant says she was excited to find out last spring that there would actually be a girls team to play on when she got to high school.
“It’s been really great playing on a girls team,” Valant said of her experience thus far this year. “I’ve always played on a boys team, so it’s really kind of changed my perspective.”
Sophomore Allison Christie and freshman Jessica Kjerstad, the Cougars’ No. 2 and No. 3 players, both came in with a little bit of experience, while senior Ashley Heldman, who is also playing for the GCA girls soccer team this fall, is just picking up the game for the first time — and she’s in the No. 4 spot in the varsity lineup.
For many high school coaches who are used to managing more seasoned players, the idea of working with beginners might not seem so appealing. For GCA head coach Shannon Witte, though, this situation isn’t entirely out of the ordinary.
“It was not unusual, when I was coaching middle school in Mooresville, to have someone show up with a set of golf clubs they had never touched before, and never having swung a golf club,” Witte said.
Even though the roster depth isn’t there yet — four players is the minimum requirement for posting a team score — Greenwood Christian athletic director Dan Carmichael is optimistic about both the short- and long-term future for the young program.
This year’s schedule, Carmichael said, is manageable, and he’s hopeful that the team can at least be competitive in the Pioneer Academic Athletic Conference, which has expanded to 10 schools.
“I don’t know how competitive we’ll be,” he added, “but you’ve got to start somewhere, and I think this is special for these girls to be the first team ever at GCA.”
The expectation is that the middle school program, which has been very solid in recent years, will start bearing more fruit in the coming years. At least two or three current eighth-graders are expected to come in and challenge for varsity spots next fall, and it seems likely that the golf program will follow the same upward trend that many of the school’s other sports have.
Carmichael expects Greenwood Christian to add boys and girls tennis teams in the very near future and hopes to have a football program in place five years from now.
In the meantime, Witte will be trying to help the golf program through its infancy — and the potentially bumpy terrain ahead.
She’s confident that the path will smooth out quickly.
“Once what people see what we’re doing,” she said, “I think that the program will grow.”