This is part of a series of team previews for the fall season. Here’s the complete list.
The Republic High School girls golf team brings back most of its lineup this fall, led by two-time state qualifier Izzy Benson. Head coach Curt Plotner said the Tigers return everyone except for one graduate in Lena Mais. With a year of experience gained, Plotner expects continued development from the entire group.
“We got everybody back, except for Lena, so we obviously have a year of experience for everybody,” Plotner said. “It should be a good group to work with.”
Benson, a junior, headlines the returners after qualifying for state as a freshman and sophomore. Plotner said Benson compares favorably to the best golfers in program history for what she’s accomplished early in her career.
Most of Republic’s multiple state qualifiers in the past have gradually improved their finish at the state tournament each time. He thinks that will happen with Benson, after she qualified as a freshman — finishing in the bottom half of the field — and again as a sophomore, where she was in the middle of the pack. “I just would expect her to continue to get that rise as she continues to get older,” Plotner said. “If she can continue to improve, she’ll go down as one of the better ones that we’ve ever had.”
Benson said she feels “a little bit more confident” in her game than last year after identifying areas needing improvement. With college recruiting intensifying, she is highly motivated to turn in an even better season.
“I’m really looking forward to playing the best golf I can and hopefully getting recruited,” Benson said. “That would just make senior year a lot easier.”
Benson specifically cited her driver as an aspect requiring “some extra help,” but said her confidence varies based on the club. She relies on outside guidance from her coaches to diagnose issues she can’t identify herself.
“It really depends on the situation. Like with my driver, that’s always been my devil child,” she said, laughing. “So I need some extra help, but I kind of know what’s wrong.
“Whereas with putting, you don’t really know. You can’t really see it. You can’t really feel it. So you need an outside source telling you what’s wrong.”
Plotner said Benson maintains an ideal mental approach for golf, keeping her composure through ups and downs.
“She doesn’t seem to get too high or low. If she’s playing good, you wouldn’t know. If she’s playing bad, you really wouldn’t know. She’s just kind of got that demeanor that is really good for this game,” Plotner said.
Beyond Benson, Stephanie David returns after a promising debut season. Plotner said David has taken initiative to get better and has shown considerable improvement over the summer.
“Stephanie David did a really good job last year. She had not played much, but she’s taken some lessons this summer and really showed some improvement,” Plotner said.
Sophomores April Clark and Paige Crosby are back after gaining experience as beginners last year. Two talented freshmen in Jenna Smith and London Crawford have already impressed Plotner with their potential during early practices. And there are new golfers on the team who will have an opportunity to make an impact at the varsity level right away.
“Both of the freshmen, Jenna Smith and London Crawford, have hit the ball well. They’ve got a huge upside and I think they’ll both be able to help us immediately,” Plotner said.
Plotner said the smaller roster is manageable and allows him to give personalized coaching to everyone on the team. The limited size also ensures ample playing opportunities for everyone.
“Six or seven (players) is pretty good. It helps with the tournaments, especially because on the girls side, there’s not a lot of JV tournaments, so if you get 10 or 11, it’s hard to find opportunities for all of them to get to play,” Plotner said.
Benson provides a pillar at the top of the lineup as she aims for another state run. If the younger returners and freshmen can make a leap, the Tigers appear primed to post a big improvement over last year’s results. “I’m really excited about this group, as a whole,” Plotner said.