When Gilbert High School started its girls golf team they practiced in a cow pasture.
Now five years later the Indians are state champions after sweeping to the title at the South Carolina AAA-AA-A championship played at Coastal Carolina’s Hackler Course.
In the state final Gilbert turned in two of the best rounds the team has ever carded.
The 310 total in the opening round was the second best score the team ever shot. It gave Gilbert a 7-shot lead over Chesnee.
The Indians shot 316, their fourth best round ever, in the second round for a 2-day total of 626 and an eight shot victory over the Eagles.
“We only made 8 birdies, but we made a lot of pars,” said Gilbert coach Dru Nix. “The only thing I told the girls was to try to keep the ball below the hole. They did and they made their pars,” she noted.
Gilbert got a solid performance from their leading golfer Kennedy Gooding who finished sixth, but it was the play of Edie Raine Hardee that was the difference maker for the Indians.
Hardee shot her career low rounds. She opened the championship with a 78 and followed it up with a 79 for a 157 total.
“When you get that kind of score from your number four player you are going to have a good tournament,” said Nix.
Alexis Hodge, Meridith Price and Ellie Chavis all chipped in to win the championship for one of the newest girls’ golf programs in the state.
Starting in a cow pasture is only part of the amazing rise from a start up to a championship team.
“When we started we didn’t have anything. We begged and borrowed equipment and uniforms it is really amazing how far we have come in a short time,” said the Gilbert coach.
Nix had just retired after 21 years with the South Carolina High School League.
As an associate commissioner she had helped bring several new sports to the high school league including expanding girls golf.
Nix earned Hall of Fame recognition at USC Aiken in basketball and volleyball, but the only thing she new about golf came from her college roommate who was a very good player.
The program started with six softball players who wanted to form a golf team. Only a couple of the girls had access to a golf club so the pasture become their practice facility.
“We used Meridith Prices’ family cow pasture to start. We cut the fairway at 40 yards wide, then 30 and then 20 as the girls got better,” said Nix.
The team got a boost when Kennedy Gooding returned to play on the team. Gooding had played at Lexington when Gilbert did not have a girls team. She helped the Wildcats win two state titles before returning home.
The team developed quickly and finished third in the state last year, but then had to reformat the squad after a couple of players decided to leave the program.
“When those girls left it pulled our team closer together and they had the attitude that we can do this without them,” Nix recalled.
This year the team chased top ranked Chesnee until the week before the state playoffs when they finally edged past the Eagles at a tournament and used that momentum to top the Eagles again and win the state title..
“It really is amazing when you think about how far we have come in such a short time. Now we can practice at Ponderosa Golf Club, we have a state championship and we have most of our team coming back for next year,” concluded Nix.
The Eagles finished second in the classification for the second straight year.
“It is disappointing not to win, but we had a good year,” said coach Kyle Scruggs. “We won our region, the Upper State and finished second in the state. We just didn’t play our best at the right time,” he said.
Emma Schimpf from Oceanside won the individual championship after shooting rounds of 67 and 66 for a 2-day total of 133.
Chesnee’s Sydney Roberts got off to a slow start in the first round, but turned in the best score in the tournament with a 7-under par 65 in the final round to finish second.
Roberts finished the year with a 70.09 stroke average and four individual tournament wins.
Last year’s AAAA individual champion Chloe Holder from Wren finished in third place while Buggy Reinke from Legion and Bishop England’s Grayson Bonner rounded out the top five.
Also earning All State recognition included Isabella Britt from Chesnee, Gooding from Gilbert, Peyton O’Brien from Daniel, Olivia Ireland from Chapman and Raquel Fowler from Greer Middle.