After successful season, Lady Jays golf aims higher

The Jefferson City Lady Jays golf team got a taste of success last year. Now their coach wants to take the next step.

After reaching sectionals last season, Jefferson City head coach Randy Bickel said he believes this year’s squad could get to the state meet as a team.

“I don’t want to put undue pressure on them by raising expectations, but we’ve talked about it and they’re all very capable,” Bickel said as the Lady Jays prepare to open the season this morning at the Laker Invitational at Old Kinderhook in Camdenton. “It’s just a matter of keeping it together every day and managing the weak parts of their game.”

The Lady Jays return two golfers who competed at the sectional meet, including junior Brooke Thompson, who finished sixth at sectionals and 36th at the state meet.

With Thompson, it’s her consistency that has gotten her to where she is now.

“She is maturing into her golf game to where she’s now recognizing her strengths and her weaknesses,” Bickel said. “She’s playing to her strengths and working on them. She’s played extremely well and I’m very pleased with her.”

Senior Hope Watson also is back after finishing 22nd at sectionals. She was just four shots shy of qualifying for state.

“She’s gained a lot of confidence in her game,” Bickel said. “She’s always had the physical abilities, now it’s just the mental aspect of gaining confidence and managing the golf course and managing your game. All the girls have grown mentally in the sport and that’s what’s going to take us to the next level.”

Others seniors back for the Lady Jays include Danica Ridgeway, Ashlee Morrison, Caroline Hall, Madison Fear and Kayla Chariton.

A run at state would likely require some help from some underclassmen this season. Bickel said he’s liked what he’s seen so far from sophomores Blair Michael and Ellie Severance. Also on the team is freshman Allison Grosvenor.

“I’m anticipating one if not both of them seeing some varsity action, depending on how the upperclassmen play,” Bickel said of Michael and Severance. “They’re playing extremely well. Right now Blair is playing a little better, a little more consistent than Ellie. But I’m very, very pleased with them and they’ve both come a long way.”

The Lady Jays will host two matches this year, Monday against California at Oak Hills and the Capital City Invitational on Sept. 30 at the Jefferson City Country Club.

Other schedule highlights for the Lady Jays include the Helias Invitational on Wednesday at Meadow Lake Acres Country Club and a match Sept. 13 against Rock Bridge, Helias and Hickman at Old Hawthorne in Columbia.

The district tournament will be at A.L. Gustin in Columbia, with the state tournament to be held at Meadow Lake Acres.

For Bickel, one key for this squad will be how well his underclassmen handle the nerves of playing at the varsity level.

“It all comes from exposure and familiarity,” Bickel said. “I think they will iron themselves out. Their golf swing is fine, they have to stay calm so they don’t revert back to old habits. That’s the issue we’re working on now. The visualization and then hit the golf shot. Not have anything outside come in, not have a lot of swing thoughts, just visualization and execute the golf shot.”

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