Talented tinged with experience, plus a healthy dose of work ethic.
Those are the key elements that 13th-year St. Ursula golf coach Jim McGowan sees this season in his lineup. Ingredients he feels provide the potential to get back to the Division I state tournament and, this time, contend near the top.
McGowan’s teams have been some of the best in northwest Ohio during his tenure, advancing to the 12-team state field nine times.
Legitimately competing for a state championship, however, has been a different story for the Arrows, who have placed no better than 11th in six of their seven state trips times since 2004.
St. Ursula was fifth in the state in McGowan’s first season in 2001 and placed eighth in both 2003 and 2006. The school’s best finish came in 1999, when the Arrows were runners-up by three strokes to champion Cincinnati Ursuline.
But with a lineup that this year includes one senior, two juniors, and two sophomores — one of whom is the team’s No. 1 player — McGowan is optimistic about a marked improvement.
Provided they can again qualify for state, McGowan believes the Arrows could contend among the top five when the 36-hole state tournament is held Oct. 18-19 at Ohio State University’s Gray Course.
“Last year we were a 340 [for 18 holes] team,” McGowan said. “I’m feeling pretty optimistic that we can go just about anywhere now and shoot 315 or better.
“I see us trimming 10 or 12 strokes off of that. If we can do that at the Gray Course, we can be in the game.”
Leading the way is sophomore Lizzie Win, who said she fell in love with golf around age 10, and has sustained that passion ever since.
Win has the team’s lowest nine-hole scoring average at 38.7 through eight events this season, with low scores of 70 in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference event played at The Legacy and 71 on Saturday to help the Arrows win the Thunderbird Invitational in Lima.
“I started when I was about 9 or 10,” Win said. “I went out with my dad and my brother, and I just kind of picked it up from my dad.”
As a member at Highland Meadows, Win has worked as a volunteer at the LPGA’s Jamie Farr Classic since she the time took up the sport.
“I was always around golf, and my family houses one of the players,” Win said. “I got to experience what it’s like. I’m good friends with the player [Brittany Lincicome] who’s stayed in our house the past five years.”
This overall exposure to golf has accelerated Win’s progress as a player.
The No. 2 player has been junior Kathryn Young, who averages 39.8 per nine holes, with season lows of 76 two weeks ago at the Midwest Invitational in Canton and 78 at both the Walsh Jesuit Invitational in early August and in Lima last week.
“I’ve been playing since I could walk,” Young said. “My family belonged to Stone Oak and switched to Inverness when I was 4. I’ve been there ever since.”
That early start helped Young progress to her current level, and she hopes her work on the course these days leads her to the next level.
“My short-term goal is to play in college,” Young said. “Long term, I’d like to turn pro. But if that doesn’t happen, I would still play for business and stuff.”
McGowan credits the work ethic of Win and Young as having rubbed off on the rest of the Arrows’ lineup.
“They’re very young, and they don’t know how good they can be — particularly Kathryn and Lizzie,” McGowan said. “They’ve been playing pretty seriously for three or four years.
“They go all year round, and the other girls have gotten a flavor of that. They’ve kind of hooked their wagons to Kathryn and Lizzie’s kind of year-round work on it. That really kicked into gear this past winter. They all decided they were going to work hard on it, and they’ve gotten so much better in one year it’s crazy.”
The lone senior, Jessica Antypas, has the third-best average at 42.5, followed by junior Monica Torda (43.5), and her own sophomore sister, Emily Antypas (43.4).
“I’m glad to be playing with these players for my senior year,” said Antypas, who began playing golf in fifth grade.
“It’s great. We have such a strong team and we’re playing well, and I think it’s a great way to end my senior year. I’m enjoying it.”
Torda’s intro to golf took place a bit later than her teammates, but she is closing the skill gap in a hurry, according to her coach.
“Monica may hit the ball better than anyone on the team,” McGowan said. “I’m starting to see some indications that she’s going to have some scores in the 70s very quickly.”
Torda’s improvement has helped the Arrows’ ascent.
“Last year we were young and didn’t have as much experience with our No. 5 and 6 players,” Torda said of the team’s rise. “Now we’ve gained a lot more experience, and everyone is playing better.
“We’ve been playing in weekend tournaments with those [top] teams in Columbus, and we’ve been placing third or fourth, so we want to take that [positive experience] to state this year.”
St. Ursula shot a season-low 313 to win the Thunderbird Invitational, following up what was perhaps its most significant effort.
A week earlier in Canton, the Arrows totaled 321, just three shots behind first-place Dublin Jerome, the two-time defending state champion, with fellow state contender Massillon Jackson placing in between at second place.
Another solid finish came in early August at the Gahanna Invitational, where St. Ursula shot 336 to place fifth among some of Ohio’s top teams.
“We practice together in the summer and we play tournaments together,” Young said. “Last year we weren’t as close as we are this year, and we’re much more compatible now and play together as a team. Individually, we’ve all worked very hard and our scores have gotten better.”
Added Win: “Our team is so young, but we’ve grown together over the years. I just think that growth has made us better and closer as a team.
“There’s no one who is negative. We’re always positive and laughing on the golf course. This year I definitely think we have a shot at the top five [at state].”