By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Not rain, sleet, nor even snow was going to keep the Stillwater High School girls golf team from advancing to state this year — and that was just in the regionals. That’s how dedicated the Lady Pioneers to getting back to state.
A year after Stillwater was shut out of the state tournament for the first time in school history, the Lady Pioneers hope to start a new streak beginning Wednesday at River Oaks Golf Club in Edmond.
“I think we’re excited,” Stillwater coach John Weaver said. “The girls are just absolutely thrilled about it. They worked really hard this year. Gabbi (Shelton), Sarah (Carpenter) and Reid (Green) were all on that team from last year and they were kind of disappointed to be on the team that broke the streak.”
It’s that experience — and that feeling disappointment — that Weaver hopes to fuel the Lady Pioneers not only through the tough terrain of River Oaks, but perhaps even to a state championship.
“I think all five of our girls are playing their best golf right now,” Weaver said. “I don’t know about their confidence, but they have a lot of fun playing. They really enjoy each other and they like learning on the team together and they kind of feed off each other.
“As weird as it sounds, they’ve done a really good job coming together as a golf team. One will pick up the slack when another shoots bad or vice-versa. They all have just kind of come together and all have a lot of fun playing and playing for each other.”
No doubt, the Lady Pioneers will be leaning on each other a little more when they tee off at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
In fact, of the five Stillwater golfers only three have any state experience — and only senior Gabbi Shelton has been there more than once, qualifying as part of the Stillwater team her freshman and sophomore years before making it as an individual as a junior.
“This will be her fourth trip to the tournament,” Weaver said. “So she’s had a lot of experience going to the state tournament. I understand that golf isn’t quite as big of a spectator sport as others, but there’s a lot of pressure standing on the tee box with a number of fans that show up at the state tournament. It’s good to have a girl like Gabbi who has been there three times and can help them relax.”
While Shelton has helped relax the younger players like freshmen Mackenzie Enmeier and Samantha Dennison, it’s her role as a translator than could make the biggest difference this week for the Lady Pioneers.
“She’s kind of my translator,” Weaver said. “I kind of run things through her, tell her what I need done and she gets it through to them.”
For a team that’s battled through seemingly every kind of possible situation this spring — from the cold to downpours — this group has stuck together. And now, all that hard work and hours in the rain are about to pay off.
“Last week at regionals was the worst weather I’ve seen a golf tournament played in,” Weaver said. “It was windy, it was snowing, it was sleeting, the course was wet and they still went out and shot one of the lowest scores that I’ve seen as a Stillwater golf coach. That tells you that they’re loving it right now and they’re ready to play.”
And with more rain projected this week during the tournament, Weaver seems almost at ease with the conditions his team might face.
“We haven’t had a good day yet at a golf tournament,” Weaver said. “I’d be a little bit worried if it was perfect weather. I’m not sure they’d know what to do.
“You just have to stay in the fairway. There’s a lot of native grass and several fairways where you’re either in the fairway or not finding your ball. We have some young girls — Mackenzie and Sarah — they don’t hit the ball far. They’re hitting the ball farther now, but they do hit the ball straight and they put the ball down the fairway. That will help them. Reid, Gabbi and Sam all drive the ball a long way, but their challenge will be if they can get that driver going and put the ball in the fairway. If they can do that, they’ll be good to go.”