COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge girls golf team could be called a family for more than one reason.
Not only is the team a figurative group of sisters as coach Melissa Melahn calls them, but it also literally includes two different pairs of sisters.
Makayla Baker, a sophomore, and Amanda Baker, a freshman, have been serious about playing golf for three years while teammates Anna Howser, a junior, and Catherine Howser, a freshman, have been playing for five and two years, respectively.
The sisterly bond that was already in place before both sets of sisters became teammates this fall has helped make for a seamless transition for all of the new golfers on the Rock Bridge team.
“It has definitely helped integrate all of the other freshman in,” Melahn said. “The older sisters already know some of the girls, so it kind of helps the other freshman feel more comfortable.”
Along with helping the younger golfers feel more comfortable right away, the bonds between the pairs of sisters has helped the whole team feel more like a family.
“It definitely helps because I go home and hang out with my sister and the Bakers go home and hang out together,” Anna Howser said. “So, when it comes to practice, there are already inside jokes and camaraderie that the whole team can take part in.”
The situation has also helped the Bruins gain an edge in competitions. All four golfers agreed that the ability to play with a sibling rivalry pushing them has helped improve their focus and, as a result, their game.
“I like having her on the team because there is always that competition there,” Makayla Baker said. “I am always pushing myself to do better. I have improved throughout the season and part of that is because she is on my team motivating me.”
The benefit of having a sister to compete with is also quite apparent to Makayla Baker and Amanda Baker’s father, Russ Baker.
“No doubt,” Russ Baker said. “For example (Amanda) beat (Makayla) in the first tournament of the year, and I think that pushed (Makayla) to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.”
The whole Rock Bridge team has been steadily improving all season long, which is especially apparent when you look a couple of the recent scores from Makayla Baker.
After scoring a 54 two weeks ago in a match held at the Columbia Country Club, Makayla Baker carded a 47 on Thursday on the same course.
Improvement in Makayla Baker’s game on a week-to-week basis could also end up helping Amanda Baker.
“She has helped me prepare for tournaments and let me know what it feels like to play in them and also just helped me with my overall game,” Amanda Baker said.
The Howser sisters were also quick to say that they would do whatever they could to help their sister become a better player.
“She doesn’t always like to take my advice because I’m the older sister and she doesn’t like me telling her what to do,” Anna Howser said. “But she likes to try and help me too and we help each other.”
“She gives me tips and encourages me when I hit a bad shot,” Catherine Howser said. “If I keep trying and doing my best to beat her, I can be just like her."
As the season rolls on, the team is looking towards the district tournament that is set to take between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1.
There is no doubt in Melahn’s mind that the new family feel on this year’s team will be a plus when it comes to end-of-season tournaments.
“We are kind of all a group of sisters that competes together.” Melahn said. “It helps to build that unity.”