|Highlands junior KJ Toole (left) and senior Ellie Rowland (right) qualified for the state golf tournament last year. (Img: Provided)|
Senior Ellie Rowland and junior KJ Toole made it to the girls state golf tournament in Bowling Green for the Highlands Bluebirds last year.
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They may not have qualified for the second day of the tournament. But they'd like to go back this season if not take some more teammates.
"I've told the other girls about how it was such a great experience to be able to play with such advanced competition more so than what we see up here and how it builds your mental toughness," Rowland said. "It improves your ability to play in different situations."
Rowland shot a 79 to finish tied for second in the 8th Region Tournament last year and Toole tied for fifth shooting an 82. The Bluebirds finished third in the region tournament shooting a 359. Grant County won the region with a 344 score and Owen County took second shooting a 346.
Highlands returns another member of the team that golfed in the region tournament in freshman Bailey Markus. The other two golfers in the region tournament in Clara Bushman and Megan Farney graduated.
"The girls have worked tremendously hard to this point," said Mike Lipscomb, Highlands Head Coach. "I've been in contact with most of them pretty consistently. Ellie and KJ are both at their respective courses at least three to four times a week putting in time or competing in events. I'm getting the younger ones out to practice or to the driving range out at World of Golf (in Florence). I'm really, really excited to see what we can do this upcoming season. I look to KJ and Ellie to lead this team throughout the season."
At this point in the season, Highlands has eight players on varsity and seven on junior varsity. Lipscomb meets with the varsity and junior varsity once per week. He'll work with one group for an hour then another for the next hour,
"They have done a really, really great job. It's been great for both of us," Lipscomb said. "Each girl gets more individual time compared to if they're all there at once. Plus, it keeps them safe because we're able to distance them more on the putting green."
Highlands has a junior, three sophomores and an eighth grader battling for spots in the rotation. They are junior Helen Halbauer, sophomores Aly Welch, Belle Bryant and Elise Brown along with eighth grader Jenna Richey.
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Entering his third season as head coach, Lipscomb is big on the girls thinking before shooting. He also likes to make sure they're not thinking ahead.
"Every year, I pick something to focus on and it's been really nice having KJ and Ellie for as long as I have because each year, they've been able to build on what we learned the previous year," Lipscomb said. "This year, our focus is really going to be on routines. We stick to a routine so when we get there, we've hit that shot 100 times. If we can execute our routine, usually we'll get the outcome that we want."
Highlands starts the season with six tournament including the Villa Madonna Invitational at the Golf Courses of Kenton County in Independence. The region tournament takes place Sept. 29 at Eagle Creek Golf Course in Dry Ridge.