Truckee girls golf fall preview: Seniority rules
Sierra Sun sports editor
The goal for the Truckee High School girls golf team was pretty clear as it began league play at Wildcreek Golf Course on Aug. 26: Find three developing golfers that can complement three adept seniors ” Katie Fischer, Amy Watkins and Katy Jones ” in tournament play.
In high school golf, team scoring at each of eight regular season tournaments is determined based on the top five scores out of six players that represent each school.
The goal for any high school golf coach is to determine who those players will be on a week-to-week basis. Entering his tenth season as the Wolverines head coach, Mike Merriman is faced with that decision while choosing from a skimpy roster of only nine girls.
Based on experience alone, at least to start the season, Merriman figures that Fischer, Watkins and Jones will undoubtedly make up half of that six. From there, the decisions are not so easy.
Watkins and Jones enter their fourth year on the team in 2004. Fischer is only in her second year with Truckee High, but she brings plenty of competitive golf experience from her former school days at Squaw Valley and Stevenson, where she managed to get in a few rounds at Pebble Beach.
Fischer likes Truckee’s chances to improve as a team, but also to knock off its league nemesis from an impressive streak of success in the Northern 3A.
“Our rival is Lowry because they’ve won (a league championship) consecutively three years in a row,” she said. “The whole Lowry team was basically seniors, so they lost a lot of their players (notably McKenzie Swecker). We lost three or four seniors that were pretty good, but a lot of other teams have lost a lot of their stronger players, so we should have a better chance.”
Even though Truckee finished second behind Lowry in the Northern 3A at the end of the 2003 regular season, it finished a disappointing fifth out of six in the state championship tournament. Pahrump Valley took its second straight 3A state championship last season, while Lowry won in 2000 and 2001.
Although high school golf has more of a team emphasis than professional golf, success is still determined through a combination of individual performances. Fischer reiterates this idea when she states her No. 1 goal for the season.
“To beat my best score that I’ve had ” an 85,” she said.
Merriman described Fischer as a solid player who “can drive the ball a long way.” As for Fischer, he said, “She gave me a good solid No. 1 last year, and she’ll be excellent again this year.”
Watkins and Jones represent the veteran duo when it comes to Truckee High golf, but high school experience can be deceiving. Besides a few golf lessons as a child, Watkins did not start playing consistently until her freshman year.
“(Coach Merriman) has taught me pretty much everything I know about golf,” she said.
Unlike Fischer, Watson hesitates a little when asked about her expectations for the team this season.
“I expect to improve myself,” she said, “but I think as a team it might be more of a learning year. We lost some of our (key) players. They’re either not coming back, or they graduated.”
Watkins, who said her individual goal is to score below 100 in a match, definitely has the mental toughness to battle through adversity on the golf course. The other Truckee sport she has played for three years is wrestling.
Based on her improvement last year, Merriman needs Jones to be a consistent player this year.
As for plugging the remaining three positions, Merriman expects sophomore Renee Cardinali to make the biggest contribution.
“We should be four solid players,” he said after predicting that the team will improve over last year. “If I can get two (more), and I think I have them ” it’s just they don’t have much experience.”
He said Jennifer Womack will most likely fill the fifth position, while Chelsea Hess, Emma Shaffer, Kim Snyder and Ali Carroll battle for the final tournament spot. In this way, the beauty of high school golf is that each week is literally a new week for the players.
The key to success, however, is to get the inexperienced girls accustomed to the pressure of tournament play, Merriman said.
“It’s a completely different ball game,” he said. “People don’t think it is, but if I play in a really big tournament, I still get the shakes. (For instance, Snyder’s) been on a course a couple times, but she’s never really gotten into a tournament type-thing. I just know if I put her out on the course in a tournament and she did poorly, it would just destroy her. I try not to do that sort of thing.”
The face of Northern 3A golf has changed as well with the addition of Incline and Sparks (See schedule. Yerington is also in the Northern 3A, but does not host a match in 2004). Bishop Manogue leaves the 3A and moves up to 4A competition. Merriman said the teams to beat in the Northern 3A right now are Lowry, of course, and North Tahoe.
In many ways, Mike Merriman is the founder of the Truckee High girls golf program, established in fall 1995. But it took a jumpstart from another concerned man at a cross-town high school.
“Bob Milani from North Tahoe is actually the one that got girls golf going,” Merriman said. “Bob got the girls league started at that school, and I kind of picked up on that. There were other schools that were interested, and it’s been strong ever since.”
Before that, Merriman’s oldest daughter, Lauren, represented why there was a need for girls golf programs at the two high schools. Lauren, a graduate of North Tahoe in 1995, was forced to play on the boys team for two years.
“They had to play from the boys tees, and it was difficult (for her),” said Merriman, who also coached Truckee boys golf before Jeff Froelich took the program over.
Merriman said he prefers to coach girls if he had a choice.
“I’ve always found girls a lot more fun to coach,” he said. “They don’t take it as seriously; they’ll let it go. That makes it easier as a coach because I don’t have to deal with rough personalities.”
With over 30 years of golf experience, he also boasts some coaching success on his resume. Amazingly, in only its fourth and fifth year of existence, Merriman led the Truckee girls to a 3A state championship in 1998 and 1999. The program sputtered for the next couple seasons, but Truckee has earned a spot in the 3A state tournament the past two seasons.
2004 Truckee High girls golf schedule
Day Date Host Course Time
Thurs. Aug. 26 Sparks Wildcreek 10 a.m.
Thurs. Sept. 2 Lowry Lowry Municipal 10 a.m.
Thurs. Sept. 9 Incline Mountain Course 10 a.m.
Fri. Sept. 17 North Tahoe Tahoe City 10 a.m.
Fri. Sept. 24 Spring Creek Spring Creek 10 a.m.
Fri. Oct. 1 Truckee Old Greenwood 10 a.m.
Fri. Oct. 8 Dayton Dayton Valley 10 a.m.
Fri. Oct. 15 Fernley Desert Lakes 10 a.m.
Th.-Fri. 10/21-22 3A State Championship TBA TBA
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