Rock Bridge senior Anna Coil stepped to the tee at L.A. Nickell Golf Course on Tuesday afternoon and ripped her drive down the middle. Fortunately for coach Melissa Melahn and the rest of the Bruins, it seems to be a clear sign of things to come.
Coil fired a 5-over-par 40 to tie for medalist honors with Hickman’s Ashlee Daly at Tuesday’s triangular that also included Rolla. The Bruins also took home the team title, shooting a 178 to beat Hickman’s 181 and Rolla’s 183. Rock Bridge also has two second-place finishes and a third in three invitationals to begin the season.
“We’ve played some very good competition so far, and put together some very good showings,” Melahn said. “I think this gives us a great starting point to build on, but also a lot to look back and reflect on what we want to direct our practice time to.”
In her second year at the helm of the Rock Bridge program, Melahn is beginning to make her mark on the team. While trying not to insult her predecessors, Melahn says practices are much more structured compared to previous seasons.
“It used to be that the girls would just play nine holes and be done. Now, we spend a lot of time working on the short game and putting,” she said. “We’re also hitting the range a lot because a lot of golf at this level is knowing yourself and knowing your club distances, because that’s where you can lose a lot of strokes.”
Melahn also is changing things in terms of the team’s schedule. She said they are trying to play against bigger schools and better competition because that will prepare the team more for postseason play. Their first meet was in Richmond, easily the farthest the Bruins will be traveling until the state tournament. The meet had 16 teams, enough to break it into two divisions, including a large-school division for schools the likes of Rock Bridge.
After missing last year’s state tournament by only one stroke, the girls did a lot more this offseason to prepare. They played against good competition in a lot of summer tournaments all over the state, something Melahn said was vital to their improvement.
“They were finally playing girls who take golf seriously, the kind of competition they’ll see at districts and at state,” she said.
That practice should come in handy soon, because Melahn fully expects the team to make a run at the state tournament in October.
To qualify for the tournament as a team, Rock Bridge has to either win the district tournament, or have four girls finish in the top 15 individually at districts. Last year, the Bruins had three girls qualify, the now-graduated Leslie Fischer and Lindsay Martin, along with Coil, but a fourth individual missed by just one stroke, which also left the team in second place by a stroke.
As the lone returning member from last year’s varsity, Coil will be looked up to by the less-experienced members of the team.
“It can be hard to step into a leadership role, but the older girls are starting to really push the younger girls,” Melahn said. “It’s the little things, like waiting for everyone to finish on the ninth hole and working on our short games, that will make us successful.”
Next up for the Bruins is a triangular meet today against Jefferson City and Helias at Lake of the Woods golf course.