The Ottumwa girls golf team hopes to start its season on a high note when it goes to Fairfield to take on a Trojan team that will be thirsty for revenge after it was handily-defeated by Bulldogs by 79 strokes last spring.
“That’s definitely a dual we look forward to each year,” Ottumwa coach Stephanie Mishler said.
The Bulldog roster blends experience and youth. Mishler’s squad, which totals seven golfers, consists of four returning players and three freshman. Darby Patritto, the only girl who has played in the last two Class 4A state meets, is the program’s lone senior. Mishler said Patritto’s state experience will prove to be invaluable to her team.
“We’re going to look for her to lead us,” she said.
Other golfers who will return include juniors Whitney Dostal and Abbie Budan and sophomore Callie Lawson. The cast of freshman that will decorate the roster include Bailey Palmer, a standout bowler for Ottumwa; Hannah Lien and Shea Collett.
“The competitiveness and the experience we have is definitely going to be a strength to start the season,” Mishler said.
The Bulldogs will try to build on their fourth place finish at the Class 4A state girls golf meet last season. The Bulldogs fired a final round total of 336 and posted an overall score of 702. To earn fourth place honors, they bested rival West Des Moines Valley in a card-off.
Patritto led Ottumwa with a two-round total of 169, which proved to be good enough to net her a 15th place finish. Dostal climbed the individual leaderboard in the second round, as she shot a second-round 80 that left her with a 174 total and propelled her into a tie for 24th place.
To qualify for state, the girls captured the Class 4A, Regional 2 meet with a sparkling performance, as they posted a team score of 361 on their home turf at the Ottumwa Country Club. The triumph represented quite an achievement for a Bulldog team that only sent one person, Patritto, to state the previous season. Speaking of Patritto, she once again led the charge for Ottumwa, as she garnered regional runner-up honors after she posted a round of 86. To earn runner-up status, Patritto had to edge Dani Duerschmidt in a card-off. The impressive collective achievement represented a complete turnaround for the Bulldogs, who had shot a team total of 390 just 19 days earlier at the country club when Ottumwa put on the Corky Nydle Invitational.
Although practice time, because of inclement weather, has been limited — the girls have only been outside on four occasions —, Mishler noted that every other team in Iowa is in the same boat. Mishler is trying to impress upon her players the supreme importance two factors will play in the team’s season.
“Short game — putting, pitching, chipping — and course management are our two biggest goals of the year,” she said.
As for other goals, the coach prefers to keep it simple.
“Our team goal is just to start the season out on the best foot possible,” Mishler said. “Every day go to the course and get a little bit better.”