Flyers, Eagles have depth, but other challenges loom

J. Patrick Eaken

In Northern Buckeye Conference girls golf, Lake and Eastwood have good roster numbers, including a combined nine letter winners returning.
        However, both teams face challenges — one team with multiple injuries and the other with  girls who are new to the game.
        Third-year Lake girls golf coach Jeff Gajdostik has a lot of new players in the program after finishing as NBC runner-up last year behind Otsego. The Flyers were 4-5-1 in dual meets.
        Gajdostik says although his team “has a lack of experience,” he’s “looking forward to the girls golf season at Lake High School. I’m excited for the season to start and to see where we end up. I’m very optimistic with all the new players.
        “They are very dedicated and committed to getting better. I’m looking for marked improvement throughout the season.”
        Gajdostik does have three letter winners in senior Kimberly Zoltani, junior Katelyn Stamper and sophomore Makayla Neal. He said at least seven others are “new to the sport of golf.”
        Zoltani was a first team All-NBC player last year after averaging 47.3 strokes per nine holes, plus Gajdostik says Neal is “much improved over last season, so far.”
        Some of his new players who expects to compete are Makenzy Wilson, Abby Loving, Olivia Feather, Kenzie Jackson and Maddie Walters, 
        Still, Gajdostik says the team’s goal remains to win the league, adding that “competition in the NBC is always tight. There are many good teams.” 
        The team graduated two all-league choices in Autumn Schmidt (44.3) and Aubrie Kunkelman (51.9).
        At last year’s NBC meet at Green Hills Golf Course in Clyde, Schmidt shot 45-42—87, Zoltani shot 47-44—91 and Kunkelman shot 56-55—111 for Lake, which scored 438 to finish behind Otsego (383). The Knights’ Olivia Jackson (43.1) shot 39-40—79 to earn medalist honors and earn Player of the Year honors.
        Before coaching at Lake, Gajdostik was a golf coach at Cardinal Stritch four years, where his team won a sectional championship.
        Eastwood girls golf, on the other hand, can only go up after finishing sixth in the league by two strokes a year ago. That was last in the team competition.
        Coach John Cavendish, in his 19th season, has six returning letter winners hoping to get his team back into the upper division of the NBC, but his team already has some challenges to overcome.
        Returning senior Kendra Hagg was second team all-NBC last year and Sarah Ameling and Emma Bowe were honorable mention.
        Last year in NBC competition, Hagg averaged 54.4, Bowe was at 56.7 and Ameling at 58.9. At the NBC meet, Hagg shot 50-47—97, Bowe shot 55-56—111 and Ameling shot 66-53—119.
        “I am looking for senior Emma Bowe to pick up a lot of slack and take a leadership role on the course this year, along with senior Olivia Ruffner,” Cavendish said. “We have two players on the disabled list to start the season and we are hoping for quick recoveries.
        “I do hope that Emma Bowe, Olivia Ruffner, Emma Finley and Reegan Sheets will find a way to step up and help this potentially great team have a good start.”
        “Olivia Ruffner and Emma Bowe both have the length to play at the next level while Sarah Ameling definitely has the consistency. Any of these players would be a great asset to any team. I hope someone gives them a good look,” Cavendish continued.
        “Our lefty, Reegan Sheets has a great attitude and is very athletic. I'm looking for her to take a greater leadership role as a junior.”
        Cavendish said coming into the season, with just limited practices, he is seeing that freshmen Mariah Hahn and Mallory Kramer “can really strike the ball.”
        “I can't really say where I expect the team to finish because of a couple injuries. I am really hoping for a top two finish, but it is still up in the air at this point,” Cavendish said.
        “I think each team in the NBC has one or two great players and a lot of improving players. The teams are pretty equal overall, but we'll see what the golf gods say,” the Eastwood coach continued. “The maturity on the team will be our greatest asset this year with six returning letter winners.  They will be able to help our younger players develop faster and make our bench deeper, that would be a great thing to have. A couple injuries are the only weakness — we have a determined team.
        “Regardless of stats, scores or records, we have a great group of young ladies at Eastwood whose work ethic and character will take them far.  I just hope I can teach them that golf is a lifelong game that can establish contacts and connections that they would not dream possible, just like my dad and (Eastwood boys) coach (Mike) Gardner taught me.  The fun and friendships that come from this game is what it is all about.”
        Although Cavendish’s teams have not won any league championships, he does have two girls playing collegiately — Jenne Venier is a senior at Lourdes University and Leigh Snyder is a sophomore at Lake Superior State University.


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