Hickman junior Ashlee Daly’s round at the district girls golf tournament two weeks ago was her last this season with her Kewpies teammates. But her score of 95 put her in ninth place overall, which qualified her for the state tournament as an individual.
Since then, Daly and Hickman coach Marie Vineyard have been practicing daily and preparing for her first trip to next week’s state tournament at Deer Lake Golf Course in Springfield.
The two full weeks between district and state play has left Daly raring to go.
“I’m kind of anxious, just ready to go out and play,” Daly said. “I’ve never been down to Deer Lake, so it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Her preparation has been consistent and difficult, especially considering the cold weather that isn’t quite conducive to golf.
“Every day I just keep swinging,” she said. “I’ll come out here to hit a bucket of balls, play the par 3s or work on my short game.”
Vineyard is taking a more structured approach to the tournament, leading Daly through the experience by making practice hard enough that the tournament itself will seem routine.
“We’ve played a lot of different area courses,” Vineyard said. “We have been playing the men’s tees because it will be a little longer than she’s used to.
“We researched the type of course Deer Lake is, trying to compare it to courses around here. It’s been good for her short game and determining the right club selection.”
Since Daly is the only Kewpie that qualified for the tournament, it has allowed Vineyard to accomplish more in the teaching part of the game. She said that she can do a little more coaching when she can play with a golfer individually to see her game up close.
“You can make a minor adjustment or help her fix her swing,” Vineyard said. “I’m now giving her 100 percent of my attention and am completely devoted to her and her game.”
That will all begin to pay off on Sunday when Daly plays her practice round at Deer Lake, allowing her to get a feel for the course before it matters most. The additional fans and better players can have a dramatic effect on some players’ games, not to mention that the state tournament is the pinnacle of high school golf.
“State is an exciting place to be,” Vineyard said. “It’s a very formal tournament, something the girls aren’t used to.
“The first time is a matter of adjustment, trying to not allow the professionalism overwhelm them.”
However, Daly doesn’t foresee any issues with nerves next week.
“I just want to go out and have some fun,” she said. “I’m not expecting too much, with it being my first time at state.
“Maybe it’ll mean more at the end of next year, but since I’m a junior, it’s for fun and I’m looking forward to it.”