By BUTCH HARMON
Led by one of the top sophomore golfers in the state, the Okemos girls golf team is looking to take the next step up the ladder this season.
One of the top teams in the area last season, the Chieftains are looking to make an even bigger impact this year. Last season, Okemos qualified as a team for the state tournament and finished just outside the top ten in 11th place. With several players back including sophomore Elle Nichols, Okemos is primed for even bigger things.
“We’re deeper then we’ve ever been the last few years,” said Okemos coach Dan Stoltz. “That’s been nice. We have a little more depth.”
The Chieftains also have talent to go with that depth, led by Nichols, who finished fifth as an individual at the Division 2 state meet.
“She hits it so long, but yet she’s got good touch, can really putt,” Stoltz said. “That’s why she is Division 1 prospect. You know some of these kids are accurate and they learn how to score but she’s also really long. She’ll hit the ball 280 sometimes, she’ll pound it, and yet it‘s not just that. She has a really nice short game and she’s pretty accurate with her irons. She’s just a well-rounded player.”
While Nichols leads the way, she has a strong group of teammates with her.
“Elle is a very good player that leads us, but we also have some other real solid players,” Stoltz said. “Katy Hollis, Marie Lazar, and Riley Gordon. Those are kind of top four and then we have some other kids battling for five and six.”
Okemos was ranked 10th in the state in Division 2 early in the season, but that is par for the course in the rugged CAC Blue.
“We’re in a very, very tough conference with East Lansing and Holt,” Stoltz said. “They are both state-ranked teams as well.”
A key to the early-season success for Okemos has been the work the team put in over the summer.
“I like how far we’ve come, and our girls deserve to have some success because they’ve worked very hard at it,” Stoltz said. “They’ve put in a lot of time, and they’ve done the right things in the offseason. Doing things you have to do to become better players, so I have to give them a lot of credit.”
The Chieftains are looking for that hard work to pay major dividends at tournament time.
“We hope we can make it to states,” Stoltz said. “You know you have to finish top three in the regional, and if we can finish in top three we can go to states and see what happens. We’d love to have a chance to go there and see where we fit in.”
By BUTCH HARMON