Prep Sports

Like Lions: Duo expected to power Linn-Mar girls' golf team

Senior Tori Niemeyer and sophomore Tatum Depuydt return after similar success last season

Linn-Mar's Tori Niemeyer hits the ball onto the green on hole 15 during the 2018 Mississippi Valley Conference Supermeet Golf Tournament at Gardner Golf Course in Marion on Monday, April 31, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Linn-Mar's Tori Niemeyer hits the ball onto the green on hole 15 during the 2018 Mississippi Valley Conference Supermeet Golf Tournament at Gardner Golf Course in Marion on Monday, April 31, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

MARION — Their resumes were nearly identical.

Linn-Mar golfers Tori Niemeyer and Tatum Depuydt tied for 11th at the Class 4A state meet, capping a season where they both earned first-team all-Mississippi Valley Conference and second-team all-state honors. Benefits exist when the greatest disparity is their grade.

“Since we are so close in our skill and our play, it’s so much fun playing,” said Niemeyer, a senior two years older than Depuydt. “It’s like a friendly competition, of course. We want each other to get better.

“We want each other to succeed, especially for our team. I love pushing her and love when she pushes me to be my best.”

Both are expected to be leaders for Linn-Mar, looking for a third straight state appearance after a third-place finish last season. Linn-Mar opens its season Tuesday with a quadrangular at Ellis Park.

“We have two accomplished girls that have worked very hard on their games the last six months,” said Linn-Mar Coach Chris James, who has yet to join the team due to the recent birth of his son, Maddux. “I think they are ready to take that next step forward.”

Niemeyer averaged 44 per nine holes last season, owning about a three-stroke edge. Depuydt’s 86.63 18-hole average was a little more than a stroke better. They have a mutual respect, but won’t back down in practice.

“It’s a lot of fun to challenge or one-up each other,” Depuydt said. “We just push each other to be the best.

“It really pays off in tournaments, eventually.”

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Even their offseasons were similar. Both spent a number of hours at simulators during the winter, preparing for spring. Niemeyer said she focused on fundamentals, working on her overall swing with every club.

Depuydt took lessons with Elmcrest Country Club’s renowned golf pro Larry Gladson, gaining steam for the season.

“I know their work ethic will help inspire their teammates and that is a key part of it as well,” James said. “I think they are really motivated. They know what they want to accomplish. They’re going to go about it in different ways.”

As much as they mirror each other, they have differences. Depuydt can drive the ball off the tee, while Niemeyer thrives with consistency. Both know how to play to their abilities, according to James.

“I don’t see a lot of similarities of their style or ball striking,” James said. “I do in how they manage the game, understanding their strengths and their work ethic.”

Niemeyer has reached the state meet in each of her three seasons. She qualified as an individual as a freshman and was part of the seventh-place team as a sophomore. During her first season, last year’s senior class embraced and mentored her. She learned a lot from that group and wants to play that role for her current teammates.

“I love helping them and letting them know the rules of the course and what to expect,” Niemeyer said. “I want them to know if they need anything I’m there for them.

“I want to be the same as they were for me for the girls this year.”

The Lions' success, at least early in the season, will depend on Niemeyer’s and Depuydt’s performance. Linn-Mar does have talented young golfers and some others who just couldn’t crack a senior-dominated lineup.

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“They understand they are going to need to play well in every meet,” James said. “I think they’re good enough and understand the game well enough that if they don’t have it one day they can grind something out and come in with a decent score to help us out.”

Linn-Mar has the potential to be drastically better late in the season, getting more repetition and experience. The Lions have aspirations to return to state and produce strong conference results. The emphasis is on immediate goals, building toward the postseason.

“We have a lot of short-term goals, right now, which is making sure we have a team prepared,” Depuydt said. “We’re just taking baby steps and moving slowly forward to that.”

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

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