Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

The maiden voyage

Basehor-Linwood girls golf program finds success during first season

October 20, 2005

The new Disney movie, "The Greatest Game Ever Played," chronicles golf's transition from a rich man's game, to any man's game in the early 1900s. In the beginning of this century, professional golf is in the midst of another transition, heading for a time when it will no longer be just a man's game at all. In 2003, Annika Sorenstam became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years when she missed the cut by just four strokes at the Colonial Invitational. Fifteen-year-old phenom Michelle Wie can drive the ball well over 300 yards and has aspirations of playing in a PGA major tournament before her career is done.

With the rising prominence of women golfers, it's little wonder some of the girls at Basehor-Linwood High School wanted to get in on the act. What is surprising is how well the Lady Bobcats have done in their first year as a competitive golf team.

Basehor-Linwood, led by coach Ryan Higgins, finished 4th, 3rd, and 3rd, in its first three tournaments, all of which included at least nine teams.

"At the beginning our goal was just to get better," Higgins said. "From there we've had to raise our expectations."

Higgins didn't know what to expect from his team early on simply because many of his players were totally new to golf. Of the nine girls on the team, only two had competitive experience. Megan O'Bryan and Lindsey Fenton, both sophomores, played with the BLHS boys team last year. Their teammates were drawn to the game for the first time this year, for a variety of reasons.

"My aunt told me I should play," junior Amanda Leive said. "I thought it would be fun."

So far, it has been fun, especially for Higgins. When three girls came to him asking about getting a team started last spring, he volunteered to coach. He knows where his players are coming from, since he's fairly new to golf himself. He said he only started getting serious about the game after he graduated from college and started working. Before that, he found it frustrating and boring.

"I told them it's a frustrating game," Higgins said. "And girls are better than boys at managing their frustrations."

O'Bryan, having competed with both boys and girls, agreed that there was a definite difference in poise and attitude toward bad shots.

"A lot of guys will slam their clubs on the ground, get real mad and walk off by themselves," O'Bryan said. "Girls are just like, 'whatever.'"

But O'Bryan also said there were disadvantages to being one of the few girls golf teams in the area. The Lady Bobcats have to travel much farther than their male counterparts and Higgins was able to schedule just five varsity tournaments this year. Perry-Lecompton's girls team, also in its first year, is the closest in location and size to Basehor-Linwood. At the beginning of the year Higgins just wanted to beat Perry-Lecompton, but that goal was met in the first tournament of the season. Since then, the Lady Bobcats have had to look farther from home for a challenge. That's no problem for them though, since this whole year is about trailblazing.

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