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Early success gives Panthers hope

Thu., March 29, 2007

They call it a spring sport, but girls golf in Spokane was up and running before the clock stopped ticking on winter.

For Mead High School, the early season has been both rewarding and a little bit frustrating.

Sixth-year coach Don Beloved is pleased that the Panthers have earned second-place finishes in their first four tournaments, but he thinks they can play better – well enough, he hopes, to be in the hunt for a Greater Spokane League championship.

“Lewis and Clark is definitely the team to beat,” Beloved said. “Chessey Thomas is an outstanding freshman. I’ve seen her at Clarkston, where she shot a 70, and then at Manito, she shot 78.

“We should be right there with them, though. Gonzaga Prep will be much-improved, and Central Valley has Katie Sorenson back. Those should be the top four teams.”

Beloved has a pair of returning state veterans in juniors Lauren Howell and Brittany Wilcox, who, like Sorenson, were all-GSL performers.

The district allotment to state is up from eight to nine this spring, and Beloved is hoping the extra spot will fall to a Panther.

“I’d have to say I’m pleased with how we’ve finished so far because we haven’t really played particularly well yet,” Beloved said. “We only got on the course a week before our first tournament. Even for the girls who belong to a club where they can practice indoors in the winter, it’s difficult – you can only tell so much about your game by hitting into a net.

“Our first road trip, to Clarkston, was only our third or fourth round this year, and early in the season, scores are indicative of that lack of practice. By mid-April, you’ll start to see scores coming down.”

Players can practice their game in the off-season off the tee, he said, but opportunities to work on their short game and particularly their putting range from limited to nonexistent. Without greens to practice on, players struggle to score early in the season. But around Spokane, they’re all in the same boat, says Beloved.

He has noticed a huge difference in both the quality of play and level of commitment since he began at Mead.

“When I first started, we had many golfers who had no experience prior to ninth grade. The girls I have now, most of them anyway, have played junior golf in middle school before they get here, and a few of our most competitive girls are playing up to 50 rounds in the summer.”

How’s his own game?

Beloved laughed and said, “That depends on when you’re asking. It gets better toward the middle of May when I finally get a chance to start playing.”

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