Prep Sports

Linn-Mar's progress leads to third straight girls' state golf appearance

Lions developed depth to support leaders Tori Niemeyer and Tatum Depuydt; Full list of Gazette-area qualifiers

Linn-Mar coach Chris James talks to Tori Niemeyer before her tee shot during the CRANDIC Golf Tournament at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville, Iowa, on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Linn-Mar coach Chris James talks to Tori Niemeyer before her tee shot during the CRANDIC Golf Tournament at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville, Iowa, on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Linn-Mar girls' golf coach Chris James admitted this season did not open with high expectations.

The Lions graduated four players from last year’s team that made two straight state tournament appearances. Questions outnumbered the answers in the form of senior Tori Niemeyer and sophomore Tatum Depuydt, who returned after tying for an 11th-place state finish.

The team progressed along with the season and any doubts were eliminated.

“The thing I’ve liked the most is they’ve responded well to the expectations they have been building the last month or two,” Linn-Mar Coach Chris James said. “Like the way the girls handled themselves at regionals.

“There was a chance these young kids would come in and wouldn’t play well. They’d be afraid or wouldn’t handle the pressure moments as well, but they did.”

The Lions captured a third consecutive berth to the Class 4A state meet at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames. The two-day event begins with a shotgun start Tuesday at 9 a.m.

“It’s super special” Niemeyer said. “It means a whole lot. It shows how far we have come from the beginning of the season and how much we can maintain ability from the previous years, even though we lost four of our seniors that would score for us last year.”

Linn-Mar finished third a year ago. With the mass exodus from the starting lineup, the Lions had to rely on inexperienced or younger players to fill out scores behind all-conference performers Depuydt and Niemeyer. They won the CRANDIC golf meet and finished second in the Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division to Class 3A title contender Dubuque Wahlert.

The Lions posted a runner-up regional finish to Cedar Falls, finishing 18 shots ahead of Marshalltown. Depth was an uncertainty early, but developed into a key to success.

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“We all knew Tatum and Tori would play well at regional, because that’s what they do, but I think the other girls really stepped up the last few weeks to get better,” James said. “It’s been fun to watch.”

“It was something we had to have to get to where we are now. … They’ve really grown and I feel really confident about our fourth, fifth and sixth golfers, coming in with scores to help us compete.”

Hard work has been a catalyst for Linn-Mar. They are determined to improve.

“The girls love to be out on the course,” James said. “They love to get better. I think that has been huge.”

Linn-Mar ranks sixth in 4A in team scoring categories, including 18-hole (361.86) and combined adjusted (190.18) averages. Depuydt leads the way at 43.96 combined score and 83.29 per round. Niemeyer is right behind at 44.05 and 83.96.

Sydney Stephenson (98.57), Abby Hoefle (100.14), Kenzie Jensen (100.67) and Avery Carlson have rounded out the top-six scorers.

“I think we’re a lot better,” Niemeyer said. “Now, that everyone is used to playing and playing in actual tournaments, everyone is more comfortable.”

Niemeyer has already participated in graduation ceremonies, so this will be her last official event as a Lion. She said it will be special and fun.

“I’d be happy if we just played our best,” Niemeyer said. “It’s not important to me how we place. Just as long as we all as a team feel like we’ve done our best and everyone is happy how they ended.”

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James said the top four 4A teams have separated themselves from the rest of the field. He said a top-five finish is certainly within reach, but it will depend on how the first-timers respond to the atmosphere on day one.

“I think we played our best round of the year at regional,” James said. “We have to just keep getting better, continuing to grow and improve. We’ll see where the chips fall.”

Iowa City Liberty’s Neely Maurus, Cedar Rapids Washington duo Emma Sorg and Blythe Heying and Hannah Fangmann of Western Dubuque also will compete in the Class 4A meet. Maurus is Liberty’s first girls' golfer to qualify.

In Class 3A, Cedar Rapids Xavier returns to state for the first time since winning the 4A team title in 2014. Ellie Braksiek will attempt to improve last year’s fifth-place finish. Defending state champion Washington (Iowa) is also in the field at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny.

Iowa Valley will get a chance to defend its 1A title at Marshalltown’s American Legion Golf Course, while Clayton Ridge’s Courtney Olson is a returning runner-up medalist.

Class 4A

At Coldwater Golf Links, Ames

Gazette area individual qualifiers: Blythe Heying, Cedar Rapids Washington; Hannah Fangmann, Western Dubuque; Neely Maurus, Iowa City Liberty; Emma Sorg, Cedar Rapids Washington

Gazette area teams: Linn-Mar

Class 3A

At Otter Creek Golf Course, Ankeny

Gazette area individual qualifiers: Kara Hunt, Anamosa; Carlene Paul, Maquoketa; Madison Rohach, South Tama

Gazette area teams: Cedar Rapids Xavier, Washington (Iowa)

Class 2A

At Ames Golf and Country Club

Gazette area individual qualifiers: Dru Kramer, Monticello; Abby Patterson, Mid-Prairie

Gazette area teams: Tipton, Williamsburg

Class 1A

At American Legion Golf Course, Marshalltown

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Gazette area individual qualifiers: Madi Fleming, Central City; Courtney Olson, Clayton Ridge; Maddy Streicher, Edgewood-Colesburg

Gazette area teams: East Buchanan, Iowa Valley, Maquoketa Valley

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

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