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Sunday, 08 September 2019 16:08

Lady Raider Golf Season Preview: Miller, 'competitive streak' to carry Richmond in 2019

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Senior and No. 1 golfer Hailey Miller will look to lead the Lady Raiders as they tee off at Pinehurst No. 5 on Monday. Senior and No. 1 golfer Hailey Miller will look to lead the Lady Raiders as they tee off at Pinehurst No. 5 on Monday. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond Senior High School girls’ golf team has been hard at work for the last month preparing for its 2019 season. And second-year head coach Keith Parsons said his team is ready for the challenge as it opens play this week.

One of the last Richmond athletics programs to begin its season, the Lady Raider golf team brings to the 2019 season a mix of veteran returners, as well as a few fresh faces to the course. Leading the team will be senior and four-year No. 1 golfer Hailey Miller, as well as second-year players and sophomores Kenleigh Frye and Kirsten McDonald.

New this season is senior Lauren Humann, along with first-time players and juniors Delaney Driggers and Angeli Yang. The six players will hit the course for the first time Monday at Pinehurst Resort No. 5.

“We have been progressing well, and I’ve seen a lot of improvement in all our players,” Parsons, a history teacher at Richmond, said. “We start at Pinehurst No. 5, which will be the hardest course we will play this season, until we get to the regional or state tournament. We plan to have our three returnees playing Monday – Hailey, Kenleigh and Kirsten, along with newcomer Lauren. 

“Delaney and Angeli haven’t been in a tournament environment yet, so they are going to follow some of the play Monday so they will be ready for the remainder of our matches,” he added.

The Lady Raiders will be without several seniors from last season, including Natalie Davis, Jessi Graham, Kylie McDonald and Gabby Paone. Davis, along with Miller, were the only two players to qualify for the regional tournament, and Miller was the lone Lady Raider to make the state tournament as a junior.

“You always hate to lose senior leadership, specifically the kind we had last year,” Parson said. “But Hailey has done a great job of stepping in to be even more vocal than she was last year to fill that void.”

A season ago, the Lady Raiders finished third in the Sandhills Athletic Conference standings behind champion Pinecrest High School and second-place Jack Britt High School. In the state tournament, Miller finished tied for 29th in the 4A championship, posting a two-day score of 171 (+31).

This season, Parsons noted that Miller “obviously is where everything starts for us” but added that Frye and McDonald will “provide great backup for her as returning players.” He added that both of the sophomores seem more comfortable on the course and around teammates. With Humann, “there is a lot of talent,” and Driggers and Yang “are getting better daily.” 

“They all work well together and enjoy being around each other, which is important,” Parsons said. “I expect that only will improve.”

With Pinecrest and Jack Britt expected to have another strong team this season, Parsons isn’t counting out a run at a possible SAC championship. But before the team shoots for that goal, he wants his players to focus on improving themselves and each other first.

“As simple as it sounds, our team goals are to improve each match and to perform to the best of our abilities,” Parsons commented. “I don’t want to get wrapped up in what Pinecrest or Jack Britt do, we need to be the best we can be each week. 

“And that starts Monday,” he noted. “Our returners certainly have a competitive streak to carry them through any rough patches, and I expect the same from the newcomers.”

In the latter weeks of summer vacation and the first two weeks of the new school year, the Lady Raiders have met twice a week at Foxfire Golf and Country Club, Richmond’s home course, to practice. Parsons explained that many of the practices have consisted of playing nine-hole rounds to prepare for the season.

“Hailey’s continued improvement to the top of the conference will help, certainly, and the improvement throughout the lineup should, too,” Parsons said of the team being successful in 2019. “I’m excited to see what Angeli and Delaney can become, since they are new to the game. There’s a freshness to how they look at their abilities, which is contagious.

“As far as Hailey in the state tournament, first and foremost, she must qualify. She is more than capable of that, and it is a bad idea to take it for granted,” he closed. “Provided she does make it, and I have no reason to suspect she won’t, an improvement from her finish last season would be great. 

“Since she is a senior, I want her to leave everything on the course this season. It is her last go-around, so if she can leave with no regrets, that would be a wonderful outcome.”

The Lady Raiders’ match against several other SAC teams will begin at 2 p.m. on Monday at Pinehurst No. 5. Miller, Frye, McDonald and Humann will represent Richmond. Last season’s opener was shortened to nine holes due to the heat index.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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