Columbus High School girls golf coach Anne Robertson told a somewhat embarrassing story about one of her players on Saturday at the CHS Media Day. Thankfully, Sarah Massman, the subject of the story, was wearing a mask. Whatever bashfulness she might have felt, there was no telling what her reaction truly was.
But Robertson had a point. Playing for the first time last year at Awarii Dunes in Kearney as a member of the varsity team, Massman struggled mightily. She finished with a 130, took 64th out of 69 players and carded two 12s and an 11.
Yet, her attitude remained sunny despite a messy scorecard.
"She had never seen the course, and it was bad from the beginning," Robertson said. "But I'd come to her and she'd be like, 'Well...' She'd just smile and move it along. We got through it," Robertson said. "That's why I'm excited to see how she does when we go back."
Columbus High girls golf put together a 16-member team in the fall of 2019. There were more than enough options for coach Robertson to choose from while making a six-player lineup. Yet, only two of those had any varsity playing experience.
Predictably, it was season of fits and starts. Golf is hard enough as a recreational activity. As a competitive endeavor, it can be downright humbling.
A season of humbling shots, swings, scores, bogeys and worse provide the stepping stone to 2020 and a team that should be better prepared and more confident.
Robertson's story wasn't meant to put Massman on the spot. It was a compliment about how she deals with the positives and negatives of the game.
With that outlook in hand, and the amount of work Massman put in over the spring and summer, Robertson is high on Massman's prospects to make a dramatic jump this fall.
And that could be said for the team at large. Massman may have been the example best fit to tell a story, but she's not the only Discoverer that looks better equipped to compete after chasing, and for the most part, failing to catch the learning curve in 2019.
"I have nine returning players, and they’ve done an outstanding job playing; with Jacey (Hughes) and Sarah (Massman) kind of leading the pack. Jacey with her tournament play, when she could, and sophomore Sarah Lasso played quite a bit," Robertson said. "I'm very excited. It's the first time in a long time I've had so many returning players with so many rounds under their feet."
Hughes leads the way as a returning state qualifier and with the City Tournament championship on her resume. She was one of two Discoverers at state last season - the fourth year in a row CHS had at least one representative. Columbus last qualified as a team in 2017.
"Jacey is a fighter," Robertson said. "I think the biggest thing I'm excited about with her is how polished her game has become. She still has a few hitches here and there, but her polish and her tee-to-green game is fabulous."
Hughes, naturally, set her sights on state but admitted it was a slight surprise she achieved it in her sophomore year. Having been there once, she's been refining her game to play at state again, and perhaps, win a medal as a junior.
"Having that experience really helped me grow in my golf game," she said. "It’s given me focus and confidence to practice hard and work hard to be able to get back there."
Columbus will field 14 girls for the 2020 season - nine returnees and five freshmen. Following Hughes is a lineup of three others Robertson said will likely make up the top four. Others will be given an opportunity in the fifth and six spots through the first few events to determine if she can lock in all six or stick with a rotation.
As a benchmark, she's trying to put together a team that shoots a total of 360 or less from its best four scores, or essentially, playing bogey golf.
"Now they know and they understand bogey or better golf," Robertson said. "Three hundred sixty will always put us in the mix to see what can happen."
Columbus has 12 events on the 2020 fall schedule, many against some of the same opponents of the past. But now as a member of the Heartland Athletic Conference, more events will feature conference foes and a higher degree of difficulty.
Robertson welcomes the challenge. Every time out, her team will be playing among a district-like field of competitors.
"Coming back with four varsity players, now they’ve been there at districts, they’re going to know what we need to do to get there," Robertson said. "With this group of girls, I think we have a good shot at that this season."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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