Things looked bad right off.
The Bainbridge High School varsity girls golf team, who returned to the green recently in the wake of a stellar season that saw them nab their third Metro League title in seven years, didn’t exactly come out of the gate swinging.
Or, at least not as well as they usually swing.
The first day of tryouts began on a bit of a low note before anyone even teed off, returning Spartan Head Coach Ian Havill said, as it was the first year since he took over eight seasons ago that the team did not see more hopefuls than the year before.
Nineteen girls showed up to try out last year, and he was hoping for 20. He got 15.
Still, a strong 15 is better than a shaky 20, right?
That’s what Havill was thinking, too — until tryouts actually began.
“Then we played our first nine-hole tryout and it was the worst tryout we’ve ever had,” he said. “Terrible. And I was just like, ‘Well, OK. Still lots of time to get better.’”
Turns out, though, with typical Spartan spirit, the team only needed a little time. Very little, in fact.
“Since then we’ve been working at it pretty good and we’re actually just killing it,” Havill said. “We’re way ahead of schedule now.”
The coach said he wasn’t worried about that freaky first flop, especially in the light of all the progress that’s already happened since.
“Golf is like that,” he said. “You can go out there and just lay an egg on any given day.
“Our team is going to be very strong because we’re already looking good.”
With the Metro tourney slated for Oct. 19, the team has some time, and plenty of matches, to get back in the swing of things.
“We’ll be very, very prepared by the time that rolls around, and I’m already feeling good,” Havill said. “I’m pretty happy.”
The swift turnaround in quality of play may come from a new inter-team competitiveness, fostered by Havill’s fresh organization.
“I’m doing it a little different,” he said. “We’re having it kind of set up where there’s competition in the off-season.
“We kind of tested it out a little bit last season. I thought it worked out.”
How it works: of the 15 Spartans duffers, only seven are actually listed on the varsity squad (you need eight for a match). There are four strictly JV players, and four “swing players.”
Based on their recent stroke averages, Havill plans to bump one swing player up to the varsity squad for every match.
“You’re trying to get from JV into the swing status and you’re trying to stay on varsity,” he explained. “You don’t want to drop out of the varsity [roster] and go to the swing [team], but you could.”
Leading that semi-fluid varsity roster are co-captains and returning golfers, seniors Sara Colley and Maddie Loverich.
“This is their fourth year so they’re going to be solid,” Havill said. “They’re a known quantity.”
The coach said his captains are “on the ball” already, getting the team out and playing even on non-practice days and organizing team events too.
“You can’t cram for golf,” Havill said. “I can’t say enough good things about what they’ve done, both getting people out and being positive. They’ve done some fundraising on their own. We’re going to a Mariners game; they put that together. Team-bonding stuff.
“It’s going to be super fun,” he added. “They’re a very friendly group and they work well together.”
The varsity squad’s other returning players include three stalwart Spartan point machines, names familiar to island golf fans: junior Lucy Hanacek and sophomores Caitlin Slattery and Kendall Havill.
“They did really well last year,” the coach said.
The team also boasts two particularly impressive newcomers: freshman Anna Kozlosky, a multi-sport athlete making a name for herself in golf this year, and sophomore Madison Culp, who the coach called “a big surprise.”
“She’s lighting it up,” he said. “That was unexpected. She’s scoring right there in the top few.”
Things are looking good for a Spartan run at the Metro title, despite the shaky start.
Or, actually, maybe because of it.
Last year, Havill recalled, he was not impressed with the team’s initial performance. The squad was in a slight slump after winning two consecutive Metro tourneys in Havill’s first two years in charge. He thought they’d have a fine season, sure, but wasn’t putting down any mental bets on league placement, let alone taking home the title.
But it happened.
Now, with the Spartans slated to face off against Chief Sealth in their first match of the year at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7 at Wing Point Golf &Country Club, hopeful Bainbridge fans will be looking to see if it will again.
Will history repeat itself this season? Will the Spartans rise from their worst-ever tryouts to a fourth Metro title? Is it time for the rest of the league to watch out for Bainbridge?
“We’re putting up some really good scores in these practice rounds and people are motivated,” Havill said.
“I think it’s always, ‘Watch out for Bainbridge.’”