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MONMOUTH, Ill. – Ashley Sims has been quick to reload her Monmouth College women’s golf team after graduating a pair of four-year contributors last spring. Now in her fourth season leading the Fighting Scots, Sims brought in four talented freshmen to mix with her five returners.
“We’re very excited with our combination of veterans and youth,” said Sims, whose team finished second at last fall’s Midwest Conference Championships after staging a 21-stroke turnaround on the final day. “We can’t really replace what we lost to graduation, but we can keep building and moving forward. Annie (Sandrock) and Tanner (Garey) left a legacy of working hard and steadily improving every year. That’s the challenge for this new group – to continue to improve year-to-year.”
Carly Gonet (Granville, Ill./Putnam County) – the squad’s lone senior – enters her final campaign after shaving two full strokes off her average last season. The Scots got a boost in the late season from then-freshman Haley Hoekstra (Manville, Ill./Woodland), who returned from an offseason injury just two weeks prior to the league tournament, carding a personal-best 83 – tops among this year’s returners.
“We expect those two to emerge as the leaders – both off and on the course,” projected Sims. “As a senior, Carly has the experience. She’s been through the grind and knows the drill. The freshmen can learn volumes from her on how to approach college golf. Haley showed her potential last year once she got healthy. We’re really excited to see what she can do with an entire season.”
Any combination of sophomores or freshman could round out the six-person conference tournament team once play begins this weekend. Gonet and Hoekstra are joined by sophomore Kaitlin Korf (Forreston, Ill./Forreston) as the only returners with conference tournament experience, making for a young, but promising squad.
“It’s been pretty competitive in the early going,” reported Sims of the first two weeks of practice. “We’re excited to get into actual competition and see how everyone handles the pressure of live competition.”
Jessi Haines (Mahomet, Ill./Mahomet-Seymour) and Kaneisha Whatley (Nashville, Tenn./Hume Fogg Magnet) round out the returning letter-winners getting a challenge from four rookies – three from a solid Metamora program. Mamie Ambrosch (Metamora, Ill.), Kelsey Trout (Germantown Hills, Ill.) and Kristen Worner (Metamora) saw state tournament action last fall and are joined as newcomers by Megan Davis (Gilbert, Ariz./Williams Field).
“Our freshmen have been putting up some good scores in practice,” smiled Sims. “Mamie has put up some low numbers, but so has Kristen, and Kelsey has been very consistent. It’s really been a battle with all nine players showing signs of posting low rounds. It’s a true battle for spots. We have so much balance, nothing is guaranteed.”
The Scots freshman class has shown the potential to match the low scores of the veterans, giving Sims optimism for the present and the future.
“I think we could start out in the mid-80s,” said Sims of her youthful squad. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw some scores drop into the 70s along the way. We may not have any super-low scores, but we’ve got the group talent to put up some very respectable team scores. The team is so young, we could see some roller coaster rounds leading up to the conference tournament. That’s part of being a young team. We’ll need to improve our mental game and become mentally tougher in addition to improving our strokes.”
That scenario played out last fall when the Scots began to stabilize late in the season, firing record rounds the week before the league championships.
“The key for us will be to maintain focus and energy for not just 18 holes, but every day in practice,” said Sims. “Our quality practice will translate to quality play.”