Linn-Mar golf leaps and bounds ahead of slow start

Prep notes: First-year Lions coach sees progress; Benton wins Wamac West; Postseason assignments

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Chris James kept an open mind when he began his first season as Linn-Mar girls’ golf coach.

Even with a slow start, James still delayed judgment of the Lions. He has a better idea of their potential after witnessing the strides made over the last month.

Linn-Mar has improved every meet, earning a fourth-place finish at the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet on Tuesday at St. Andrews Golf Club. The Lions also put themselves in contention for a divisional crown, posting the second highest MVC Valley Division score behind leader Dubuque Wahlert.

“The girls have done a great job of buying in to what we’re trying to do, especially with the kind of weather we’ve had and being able to practice as many times as we’d like,” James said. “The progress has been phenomenal.

“We just have to keep the motivation going and keep getting better,” James said. “We still have a lot of room to grow with this group.”

The Lions’ 379 at the MVC Super Meet was about 10 shots better than their last 18-hole round. They are light years ahead of when they scored 218 in their first nine-hole meet of the year. Actually, the Lions have shaved 30 strokes off their team score over nine holes.

“We’ve dropped a lot,” said James, noting they were short-handed early due to injury. “It also helped to get Megan Murphy back.

“We were still moving girls around to see where they stand. I think now we’re pretty set.”

Weather has hindered their ability to get quality practice time. When they have been on the practice green, range or course, putting and the mental approach have been the focus. Emphasis on those areas has led to better numbers.

“A lot of the girls were averaging 20 to 23 putts for nine holes,” James said. “Everybody is down to 18 or better.

“We’re doing a better job of understanding and managing our golf ball around the course rather than just taking driver off every tee. They are smarter with certain shots they hit.”

The Lions have depth. Kristen Harding paced them with an 88 Tuesday and is first on the squad with a 95.33 18-hole average. Tori Niemeyer is next at 98.67, while Murphy is third with 99. Murphy leads Linn-Mar with 45.67 nine-hole average, coming in more than a stroke better than Harding.

James said he still is getting to know his players, but one thing has become apparent. The Lions are a competitive and close-knit group, which will help them more in the long run.

“I don’t know if I can pick out one girl that is necessarily leading the girls,” James said. “What is great is these girls get along really well. They’re all friends and they push each other.”

Benton boys take Wamac West

Benton Community claimed the Wamac West team title Tuesday at the Tama-Toledo Country Club. The Bobcats shot 159, edging Williamsburg by one stroke.

The Raiders sit atop the Iowa High School Golf Coaches Association Class 3A rankings.

The Bobcats are ranked seventh and average 162 over nine holes. Spencer Touro and Landen Pace led Benton with 38 apiece, finishing third and fourth, respectively. Williamsburg’s Isaac Knock won with 36.

Postseason assignments

Postseason assignments have been released by the IHSAA and the IGHSAU.

Cedar Rapids Washington will host a Class 5A girls’ golf regional at Gardner Golf Course on Monday, May 22. The Warriors host Bettendorf, Burlington, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Davenport Central, Davenport North, Davenport West, Dubuque Senior, Muscatine and Pleasant Valley.

Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Iowa City High, Iowa City West and Linn-Mar will compete in a 5A regional hosted by Waterloo West at Irv Warren Memorial. The field includes Cedar Falls, Dubuque Hempstead, Fort Dodge and Mason City.

Cedar Rapids Xavier will host a 4A regional at St. Andrews Golf Club. The Saints host Clear Creek Amana, Clinton, Fairfield, Grinnell, Keokuk, Maquoketa, Mount Pleasant, Newton, North Scott and Oskaloosa.

Marion will travel to Gates Park in Waterloo, joining teams like Washington (Iowa), Western Dubuque, Benton Community and Lisbon-Mount Vernon.

In boys’ action, Marion travels to Maquoketa Country Club for an IHSAA 3A sectional. The field includes Anamosa, Benton Community, Center Point-Urbana, Vinton-Shellsburg and West Liberty.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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