Excited, but also a little nervous.
That is the overall tone for the Huron High School girls who are participating Friday and Saturday in the first Division II state championships on The Ohio State University Gray course.
Seniors Megan Buckingham and Jen West, junior Abbey Cook and sophomores Shannon Allen, Ashley Frank and Lauren Volz make up coach Frank Gioffre's group that qualified for the 12-school field with a runner-up finish in the Northwest District tournament a week ago.
The Tigers, in just their second year of organized competition, completed the Sandusky Bay Conference season with a perfect record. It was only five years ago that none of the above had realistically picked up a golf club.
And now they are on the threshold of playing in the state championships.
How do they feel?
"I believe we are more excited than nervous," said Buckingham, who, along with West, were the first girls to try out their freshman year. West, the alternate, and the one who creates the relaxed atmosphere, said, "we are without a doubt excited, but we also want to have some fun."
Franks recalled the first meeting with Gioffre before the season started.
"We joked around about making the state, but it was not serious at the time. Coach gave us a packet at the beginning and highlighted words of encouragement. It said 'State in 08'. He had faith in us and the two divisions we (girls golf) have this year makes a world of difference," Franks said. "I have to admit I'm pretty nervous."
Volz has been playing golf just three years, but has developed her game quite well to the point she had the top scoring average in the SBC for her team at 42.5 strokes. My dad got me interested in the game and I've been fortunate to have the right people help me with my game. I played softball at the start, along with Abbey. I really like the game of golf and hope we do well at the state," Volz said.
For Allen, she said, "I never thought we could make it this far, and now that we have, all we can do is play our best. A realistic goal for us is to make it in the top three."
As for Cook, she added, "one reason we made it is because we have fun, and yet take it seriously when we have do. Golf is so much of a mental game."
Asked about the best nine-hole and 18-hole scores they have posted in competition, Volz said 39 for nine and 86 for 18. Franks also has a best nine of 39 with an 85 in the district. Buckingham's best nine-hole round is also 39 with 87 for the 18 holes. Allen is also in the same area with 40 for nine and 87 for the 18. Cook's low round this year is 42, and 96. West had 46 for her best nine and 95 for the 18 holes.
While Volz's average is between 42-43, Buckingham and Allen posted scores of 45 for the most part in the SBC, one stroke ahead of Cook and Franks.
They were also asked what area of the game have they improved the most in. "My drives are a lot better, and straighter and I also have been able to play under control. I don't get so angry like I did before," said Franks. "Driving is also where I have improved the most," said West.
"It's my short game, without a doubt," said Volz. Buckingham agreed. "My short game is a lot better this year than last." Cook talked about her putting. "My putting is where I think I have improved a great deal. As for Allen, "it's my short game. I feel a lot more confident in that area now."
Gioffre talked about his team.
"We have a group of girls who earned the opportunity to have a chance at winning the state. Qualifying for the state was one of our goals, and to play on the Ohio State course gives them a great experience and hopefully will benefit them for years to come.
"Right now they are in awe and (today) we have a practice round on the gray course. That's when it will probably hit them on what it means to play in a state tournament. I'm sure they will have butterflies, but I'm also quite sure they will learn how to handle that kind of pressure. AllI I expect from them is to play through the peaks and valleys, and put up the best score they can. Remember, this is a 36-hole tournament and there will be some tough holes, and rather high numbers, along the way. Overall, it's how you handle adversity that determines how successful you will be when everything is said and done," Gioffre said Monday afternoon before is team had a practice round at Sawmill Creek.
"I firmly believe girls golf at Huron will thrive, and the 2008 team has established something the teams of the future can try to match. It's going to be a lot of fun, but it's been a fun year for the girls since we started way back in the first of August," Gioffre said. "We certainly have come a long way in a short period of time, and that's a credit to the girls we have in the program."
Overlooked in the discussion was the activities at the school for the weekend.
"We have homecoming Saturday and we could make it back, but probably not in time for dinner. I guess we will just have to wait and see. Right now the state tournament is first and foremost for all of us," Buckingham said.