Relative success

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By John Herndon

Sizing up the Anderson County girls' golf program might depend on one's perspective.

If regional or state championships are the criteria, one will be disappointed. A year ago, the Lady Bearcats finished the season 8-6 in dual meets, but were well behind the leaders, both individually and as a team, at last year's regional tournament.

Anderson coach Lynn Gritton sees history another way. "They played about as well as they could play," he recalls. "That's all you can ask. The girls improved from the beginning to the end of the year."

Over the course of the 2007 season, Anderson defeated some good teams, including Lexington Catholic and Lafayette. Even though the team's top player, Emily Bucklew, has moved on to St. Catharine College, and three other players graduated, the Lady Bearcats have high hopes for their chances in 2008 and backed it up with a busy off-season.

"There is always room for improvement," says junior Taylor Gillis, one of the team members who has taken private lessons with an eye on lowering scores.

Gritton obviously likes that attitude, but is careful to not emphasize winning to the point that learning a life-long game becomes secondary. He focuses on the basics of the swing, learning the rules and getting better.

If his 13-member team is able to master thoses fundamentals, winning should take care of itself.

"We don't put much pressure on them," Gritton says.

"He's laid back. He wants us to learn and have fun learning," Gillis says.

That's not to say that Gritton does not think success on the course is not important. He believes Gillis, the team's top returning player based on last year's scores, has a chance to contend for an individual spot at the state tournament in Bowling Green. "She has that kind of ability," he says, "if she continues to improve."

Gillis has come to believe that possibility as well, saying, "I want to join Laurie Goodlett."

Goodlett, who played on the Anderson boys' team in the mid-1980's, is the only Anderson qualifier for the girls state tournament. She went on to play at the University of Kentucky and in the NCAA tournament.

Gritton believes the entire Lady Bearcat team has the potential to continue to improve. Junior Courtney Turpin, an stellar softball player, spends the fall season hitting the links. "She has a lot of natural ability and can hit the ball a long way," Gritton says. "Obviously, softball is going to be her sport, but she has the natural ability to be very good."

A pair of seniors and two juniors are most likely to be vying for the remaining three varsity spots.

Senior Jennifer McEntyre played well a year ago, while classmate Laura Paden has shown significant improvement over a year ago. Junior Brooke Collins has been consistent in pre-season practice while another junior, Devin Spear, has made major strides since last September.

"Devin has really been up this year. So has Laura," Gritton says. "They are working very hard. The girls put pressure on themselves because they want to do well."

The Lady Bearcats don't have the state tournament dates circled. The region is very difficult with the Lexington schools, and traditionally strong Woodford County and Franklin County all being grouped with Anderson. Many of the Anderson players do not take up the sport until getting to middle school at the earliest.

The program, which began in 2002, has decent numbers with 13 out for the team this year, but recruiting players from the student body can be difficult.

"Many see golf as a frustrating game," Gillis explains. "Then football and basketball are just more popular."

She smiles when asked if any tried golf only to find out the sport is fun.

"Allie Rogers!" she said of a freshman on the team. "She tried it and likes it."

But even with a full complement of players, it is sometimes difficult to develop in the girls' game.

"Some teams don't have very many kids out," Gritton says, noting that one team on Anderson's schedule might have just four players, one under normal varsity conditions.

"We play as many matches as possible," Gritton continues, "but sometimes the younger girls just don't get to play a lot."

But a year ago, Anderson posted a winning record. The current team believes it can improve on that. "I was very happy with our record," Gritton says. "We have a core group of kids that are getting better.

"I think the girls enjoy it."

For developing a life-long love of the sport, that is the most important thing.