With three seniors in its top six, maybe the girls’ golf team at Legacy Christian Academy isn’t that young anymore.
Still, the two-time defending Class 1A state champions figure to follow the lead of sophomore Kayla Ruf and freshman Sophia Gray. Last year at state, Ruf tied for 11th while Gray tied for 13th.
“Both of them want to be in the top five as individuals while trying to win it,” said Dan Nelson, girls’ golf coach at the Andover-based school formerly called Meadow Creek.
They share big goals this spring, but their arrival on the links could not have been more different.
Gray was “dragged into golf since fourth- or fifth grade,” Nelson said. “You don’t have a choice in that family.” Gray’s older sister, Rachel, won medalist honors at the 2012 state tournament.
Ruf, meanwhile, “never swung a club before seventh grade,” Nelson said. “But what’s great about that is she had no bad habits. She’s rock-solid and fundamentally sound.”
Ruf will be expected to maintain her place as the Lions’ No. 1 or No. 2 golfer. Dedicating herself throughout the winter, Ruf often finished basketball practice and headed right to golf lessons. Her “mental strength” makes the difference, Nelson said. “She’s a competitor. She’s real mean and tough on the basketball court.”
Backing the youngsters is a trio of experienced, steady seniors, plus Nelson’s freshman daughter, Jadyn.
Jillian Johnson sparked the Lions’ second-day surge at state last spring by carding a team-best 85. The score also ranked as her season best. Anna Cleveland, the Lions’ fourth and final scorer at state, brings a similar unflappable demeanor to the course.
Jadyn Nelson and senior Lindsey McAlpin didn’t score at state but posted solid rounds throughout the season.
Experience and strong depth have Legacy Christian vying for a third consecutive state title even as Nelson aims for a more cautious approach.
“The girls are obviously excited to win it again,” Nelson said. “But I don’t want them to stress themselves out trying to do anything special.”
Well, there is one thing. The Lions, who won by 19 strokes in 2013 and 14 strokes last year, want to break 700 at state, Nelson said. No Class 1A team has done so since 2011. They shot a 718 last year.