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Those who follow the Highlands Bluebirds girls golf team know what KJ Toole can do.
Toole returns for her senior season after qualifying for the state tournament a second straight season last year. But unlike 2019, Toole became the first Highlands girls golfer to qualify for the second day of the state tournament since Lauren Harrett-Thornton did it in 2010.
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Toole shot an 84 on the 18-hole par 72 course in the Bowling Green Country Club to tie for 48th out of 143 golfers to make it to that final day. Toole shot an 88 on the second day for a two-day total of 172 good for 58th.
"It's been a lot of fun having her on the team," Highlands Head Coach Mike Lipscomb said of Toole. "She works really hard in all aspects of her game. I think the biggest thing is managing the game and knowing she doesn't have to hit drivers all the time and she can still make pars and birdies (one under par). She has a go-to shot if her driver is not going well. Whenever you have a club in your bag that you're always confident in, it makes at least getting off the tee or certain shots a lot easier. It can change a round to be honest."
The other player to qualify for the state tournament individually the last two years graduated in Ellie Rowland. Rowland was the only senior on the team last year.
The Bluebirds finished fourth in the 8th Region Tournament last year shooting a 387. Toole finished region runner-up shooting 74 and Rowland placed seventh shooting 85 to qualify for state. Only the region champion advances to the state tournament.
Teams need four solid scorers to win titles. The Bluebirds return the third and fourth scorers from last year in sophomore Bailey Markus and freshman Jenna Richey.
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The highest the Bluebirds have finished in the region tournament since Lipscomb took over came in 2019 when Highlands finished third in the 8th Region Tournament. The Bluebirds had played in the rugged 6th Region with the likes of Ryle and Notre Dame for years.
"I think we're all going to have to work together to be able to get comfortable and do well in the matches and tournaments," Markus said. "(Rowland and Toole have been) great role models. They taught me a lot and they've helped me through the years because I had a rough patch there for a while. They were always nice and they always encouraged everybody to be better and just stick with golf."
Lipscomb has seven golfers on the varsity roster. The other four will rotate in out of the lineup for tournaments. They are senior Helen Halbauer, juniors Aly Welch, Belle Bryant and Elise Brown.
"I'm really hoping last year they got a taste of what playing in matches and tournaments was about," Lipscomb said. "I'm just really hoping that they can go out, just play their game and not let it get to overwhelming for them. Golf is a tough sport. But overall, I'm just really lucky to have girls that are willing to work and get better. You really can't ask for much more than that."
The team plays in 10 tournaments this year. Toole will play in 14 after making all-state last year.
The season starts Monday in the Cooper Invitational at Lassing Pointe Golf Course in Union. The 8th Region Tournament takes place Sept. 27.
Highlands last qualified for state as a team in 2006 as the 6th Region runner-up. The team did not make the second day of the tournament. But Kelly Borman-DiCiero qualified for the second day individually.