by Michael Smith
Grain Valley girls golf coach Randy Hughes is optimistic heading into the 2021 season.
Normally, he has eight or nine girls trying out for the varsity team. This year, he has 15 players on the team including four seniors who are trying golf for the first time, and that gives more options for Hughes to choose from when filling out the five-person varsity roster.
“This is the biggest group we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Hughes said. “We have quite a few young girls which is promising for the future.”
Grain Valley returns four golfers with varsity experience including Seena Tyler, who was six strokes shy of qualifying for the Missouri State Girls Golf Tournament during the Class 3, District 2 Tournament. She finished with a 107, finishing in a tie for 25th place.
Also coming back with experience from last year’s team are Maya Bartlett, Charlie Dressen and Lexi Arreguin.
Freshman Mallory Crane is coming in with a good amount of golf experience as she played in a handful of tournaments over the summer. Hughes said she will likely be competing with Tyler for the No. 1 spot on the varsity squad. Fellow freshman Italia Haywood is someone who could potentially contribute to the varsity team, as well.
“We have had five or six other freshmen who have come out and shown some promise, too,” Hughes said. “We have quite a few seniors who are playing for the first time and are making progress. We had a senior play with us for the first time last year, too, and she was on the varsity team.
“Golf is a lifelong sport. Some people don’t play until they’re 25 years old and they develop a passion for it.”
Crane said she won a tournament over the summer and is hoping the momentum from her offseason carries over into high school play. She hopes to continue building on her strength, which is her tee shots.
“My tee shots and my driver is pretty good,” Crane said. “I am usually able to get off to a good start. I am definitely working on my short game. Those putts get you.”
“I play in USGA Tournaments and I played in about 10 of those before this season,” Crane said. “I took first at Drumm Farm in my last tournament. I shot a 96.”
Tyler is hoping to make her first state appearance as a sophomore. And a key to making that happen will be improving her short game, she said.
“That’s the ultimate goal, to make it to state,” Tyler said. “I just need to take my time and focus on practice. The short game is the most important part of your game. I am definitely working on that.”
Hughes said his team will have a chance to have some top finishes in some tournaments this season with four returners and some talented newcomers coming on the team.
“We will have a chance depending on the teams we play and what tournament we are in,” Hughes said.
With some experience returning and some upcoming prospects showing they are capable of playing well over the summer, Hughes can see 2021 as a marquee year for the program. In the program’s history, only two players have made it to the state tournament for Grain Valley. Taylor Hileman was the last person to do it during the 2019 season.
“This year, we have a shot of getting a couple through,” Hughes said. “I think there’s a really good chance, depending on the district, to get two to state and maybe even more than that.”