When Holt came into the fall golf season, the Rams knew they had one of the best players in the area in junior Pader Her at the top of their lineup.
But the rest of the team was full of question marks and inexperience. After losing Lauren Strong, Kari Somerville and Casey Harkema from a team that took eighth in Division 1 last season, Holt’s streak of consecutive state title appearances was in serious jeopardy.
“The expectations are sort of there on their own and I tried to downplay that as much as possible at the beginning of the year. We had won the last four regionals. I said ‘Hey, we’ve got three or four of you that have never played a varsity match. For the most part, this is going to be a big learning curve for you. Just try to improve so we can reach our goals of getting to the state finals’,” Harkema said.
The Rams accomplished their goal of getting back to states. While Dan Stolz led Okemos to a CAAC Blue title and a third-place finish in the Division 2 state tournament and Mary Schafer won her third straight state title at Lansing Catholic, Harkema’s work with a lineup littered with new players has earned him LSJ Coach of the Year honors.
Holt took third in the CAAC Blue behind Okemos and East Lansing and also was third in its regional, earning a trip to states by just three strokes over Traverse City West.
A rebuilding effort had turned into a state tournament trip.
“We found a way to get it done I guess,” Harkema said. “It was a big deal to those kids. Not everyone gets to play in a state final and every year is a different team and it’s great that we’ve been there nine in a row now, but every year it’s the same goal and we’re attempting to play on that very last day that high school golf is played in Michigan.”
The Rams took 14th place at the state final with no seniors in the lineup and freshman Lauren Sanford’s score counting on the first day of play.
“The kids grew up,” Harkema said. “They grew up in the game of golf and learned a lot about themselves and how to deal with pressure and certain situations, and it was a rewarding experience this year.”