By Chris Bils / Special Contributor
GEORGETOWN — Highland Park came to the UIL state tournament with wide eyes and the kind of nerves that come with inexperience. The Lady Scots left White Wing Golf Club on Tuesday with motivation.
“We learned a lot for what we need to do next year,” sophomore An Shelmire said. “This team is really young right now, so for everybody to come back next year and be way stronger than they are now, that’s a really big thing and I think we can do a lot of good things next year.”
Over two days, HP shot a team score of 682 to finish ninth in Class 5A. Shelmire had the Scots’ best individual performance, with a score of 153 (9-over par) that put her in a tie for 13th.
Grapevine shot 622 to win the team title, and individual champion Maddi Olson, a junior from Abilene Wylie, finished 1-under par (143).
After a frustrating opening round of 344 on Monday, Highland Park bounced back slightly on Tuesday with a 338. With three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman, HP head coach Matt Claborn feels confident that his team will be back.
“I think it was a great experience for them,” he said. “I know just from hearing them talk that the disappointment from not playing up to what they expect themselves to play is going to be motivation for next year.”
Perhaps the biggest sign of the team’s growth this season was the reaction of Shelmire to shooting 80 on Tuesday, after she fired an opening-round 73 that put her one shot back of the individual lead. She admitted that a year ago, 80 would have qualified as a good day.
“My putting and my short game was really big,” she said of her first round. “A lot of my putts rolled in and I had a lot of up-and-downs. [On Tuesday] my long game was pretty much the same but my short game was not as good.”
Claborn has seen a more confident golfer the past several months, as Shelmire has learned how to attack courses and, as a result, shoot lower scores.
“She really is about to turn the corner in my opinion,” Claborn said. “I think she’s going to really take off and be competitive to win a lot of tournaments.”
HP freshman Sophie Biediger shot 166, with a final-round 80 as her low score.
“At first it was really nerve-wracking,” she said. “It was my first time [at state] so I was really stressed out, but then coach [Claborn] helped me get calm. [Tuesday] I played way better.”
Nikita Nair (180), Katie Laird (183) and Julia Cary (194) rounded out the scoring for the Lady Scots. All will be back next year, with the goal of getting back to Georgetown and, this time, competing for the state title.