SEASON PREVIEW: Greene County opens a new era of girls golf
By BRANDON HURLEY
Josh Carlson is empathetic.
The first-year Greene County girls golf coach realizes the kind of mental pain one of the world’s oldest sports can inflict on an athlete.
It’s why Carlson is taking a delicate approach to the season.
Inexperience will unfortunately follow the Rams most of the year while a small roster heightens the disadvantage. But with unfamiliarity comes a chance to grow a love for golf among a group of eager girls.
Carlson is eager for the challenge, even if many of his girls had never picked up a club prior to this spring. Only Greene County’s Alex Miller had taken part in a competitive round of golf prior to Monday’s season-opener, placing the Rams on a path of uncertainty. Carlson hopes to help instill a passion as the season progress. He will start with building confidence, pushing the girls to look ahead.
“I’ve been reinforcing that this (team) has a positive atmosphere,” the coach said. “One catch phrase I have is, I always ask them what the most important shot in golf is, and that’s the next shot. Whatever happened before, just let it go.”
Only fellow Ram Bri Habben has elongated experience in addition to Miller, which leaves Greene County with quite the hole in its roster. It’ll be a season of challenge, but one the girls are ready to embrace after losing the 2020 schedule in its entirety due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Carlson plans to implement a learning atmosphere this spring, pushing the girls to improve each day instead of zeroing in on lower scores. The results will come later, as the next few weeks are used to work on contact.
“I try to keep it light. I don’t stress they have to make every putt,” Carlson said. “Just hitting the ball, not focused on where it is going. (When they do that), I can see it excite them. I (want them) to get addicted to that feeling and want to hit that same shot again and again.”
Carlson, who graduated from Jefferson-Scranton High School in 1995 after playing for the local golf team all four years, is drawn to the longevity of the sport, the ability to discover new things as one becomes more comfortable with it. Golf’s unpredictability is what makes the sport so special, he believes. There’s rarely a dull moment.
“Everything is new, every shot is new,” Carlson said. “Every course is new. If you’re bored with repetition, while there is some in golf, this could be the sport for you.”
The key, Carlson said, is getting his girls to practice more and more everyday. Good contact is the start, which will lead to a better understanding of the game.
“They went from the first few days of ‘what’s going on?’ to being excited,” the coach said. “They are eager to do that. I can tell they are getting charged and attached. Hopefully they enjoy the competitive side as well. “
Greene County’s lack of experience will certainly come into play during meets this spring. The Rams only competed with four golfers against Carroll on Monday, which Carlson could become somewhat of a common theme in the beginning. He doesn’t want his girls getting discouraged and losing interest if he throws them out there against the best.
“If they aren’t ready to compete, i’m not sending them out there,” the coach said. “It could demoralize them, and who knows what could happen. I don’t want them to face that kind of humility.”
The key to overcoming moments of intimidation during a competitive round, Carlson encourages his athletes to focus only on each of their own shots. The tighter the cross hair, they more likely they’ll succeed.
“You’re competing against yourself. Don’t worry about what others are doing in your group,” Carlson said. “You have to keep an eye (them) just for the scoring, but overall, you compete better if you focus on your game,Have fun with it and try and do better than what you did best.”
Greene County opened the 2021 slate with a 263 to 212 loss to Carroll April 5 in Grand Junction. Alex Miller led the Rams with a low round of 52 in nine holes, which placed her second behind Carroll’s Grace Pettitt, who shot a medalist-securing round of 44. Carroll’s Erin Winker and Ashlee Danner tied for third with matching 55s.
Progress is the goal this spring, no matter the route it takes to get there. Carlson hopes to see his girls take the next step as they explore a relatively new sport.
“I want to see steady improvement, to see growth in them as players,” the coach said. “I don’t have a specific number (for them to reach) as a team or players. I want to see them continuously improve and to get more excited about it.”
The Class 2A regional tournament is set for Monday, May 17 at a yet-to-be-determined location.
The 2021 state tournament will be held June 1.