NEWTON — Expectations are high for the 2014 Newton girls’ golf team. Both the Cardinal golfers and head coach Scott Enyart expect to continue the NHS tradition of strong golf on the courses.
The Cardinal girls’ golf program has qualified for state as a team three times — 2003, 2008, 2013 — under Enyart, who is in his 13th year as head coach. The Cardinals finished second in a Class 4A regional tournament on their home course last year. Five of the six golfers, which placed sixth at the 4A state tournament in 2013, return for the Cardinals.
Since joining the Little Hawkeye Conference in 2006, the Cardinal girls have been first or second as a team in the conference. Enyart, who was a 2013 Class 4A District Coach of the year, said the Cardinals and Grinnell have battled for the top spot in the conference of the years.
“We have a very successful program and the girls we have back this year, that success will continue,” Enyart said.
The Cardinals open the 2014 season at home Thursday in a dual with Pella at Westwood Golf in Newton. The meet begins at 4:15 p.m.
Last year was tough on a lot of spring sports because of the inclement weather. The Cardinals weathered the tough season to combine for a 376 on their home course, Westwood Golf Course, to secure second place at the 4A regional and a berth to the state tournament.
Returning to the links for the Cardinals are seniors Carrie Cunningham, Madigan Hillyard and Madeline Wellik, junior Shelbey Cochran and sophomore Jessica Reynolds. The other senior on the team is Kaitlyn Sorensen.
Abby Jolivette and Olivia Maharry are juniors. Sophomores on the team are Alyssa Bartels, Emily Fitzgerald, Cydney Hillyard, Jessica Smith and Amber Sorenson. Joining the team as freshmen are Lizzy Coyle, Emily Mehmen and Jacy Yoder.
Wellik moved to Newton and began playing for the Cardinals as a sophomore. She said her chipping is the best part of her game, but admitted she needed to work to improve her short game.
“As a team, we’re successful because we work well together, in practices and during meets,” Wellik said. “For me, I like to think alignment, balance and tempo before each shot and make sure I do my routine every time on my tee shots.”
Reynolds led the team at the state tournament — by one shot — as a freshman. She said she loves the game of golf and has played it since she was 4 or 5.
“My drives are the best part of the my game,” Reynolds said. “I get distance on my shots. I’ve done some practicing indoors in the off-season to help improve my short game.”
Cunningham, Hillyard and Sorensen are four-year golfers for the Cardinals. Cochran is in her third season on the team.
All the returning players had the same answer to the question of why the Cardinals have been successful.
“We get along together. We help each other out and support each other. We picked up a player who has had a tough day. All of us are hard working and want to win.”
“I enjoy playing the sport and I have a good short game,” Hillyard said. “I got a new driver this year and I hope it will help me put a better long game together with my short game. I want to improve my approach shots to the greens, you know, find them consistently.”
For Cunningham, the focus is putting and chipping this season. She said she hits well with her irons following a tee shot. Cunningham said the best part of the sport is playing golf with her friends.
“My irons — hitting the mid-range shots — are the best part of my game,” Cochran said. “I hit good approach shots. I really love this sport. I’m looking to improve my overall game, and that means, putting better and having good drives off the tee boxes.”
Sorensen said she tends to overhit off the tee box and on the greens with putts. She said she relaxes more in the “middle part of the game” and is focusing on being more relaxed from beginning to end on each hole.
“We’ve got players on the team who play golf well. They help those on the team who struggle with something. It’s about teamwork here,” Sorensen said.
Enyart said Cunningham, Hillyard, Wellik, Cochran and Reynolds are all pretty consistent players on the course. Filling the sixth spot on the varsity will depend on whoever is playing well that week, he said. He said there are several girls who could rotate into that sixth spot.
“Madeline is a rhythm player and tends to keep the ball in the middle of the fairways and in play throughout the course. Madigan doesn’t let things such as a bad shot or whatever to bother her,” Enyart said.
“Carrie is consistent and has nice tee shots. Jessica handled a lot of tough competition last year, playing in the No.1 or No. 2 spot for us, and she hits the ball a long way. Shelbey puts the ball in the fairways and has improved her putting.”
Enyart said he and assistant coach Alison Grier are excited about the team as a whole this season. Newton has several younger girls who could develop into strong golfers.