Panthers rebuilding with big squad
After losing three of its varsity golfers to graduation — including state-qualifier Natalie Booton — the Mt. Pleasant girls’ golf team is rebuilding this year with a big but inexperienced group.
“This is one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams I have had,” said Coach Jim Kelly.
The Panthers have 10 golfers set to play — as well as one other golfer still considering whether she will be on the team — which gives Kelly a lot of athletes to work with.
But the season’s success depends on how fast those athletes can adjust to competitive play.
“(The key to the season will be) how quickly our inexperienced team learns how to play in pressure situations,” Kelly said.
The Panthers are playing this year without three of last year’s varsity golfers: Booton, Lindsay Dorn and Danika Christner, a group that led the Panther team, which with a record of 35-16 last season.
Booton was a three-time individual conference medalist who finished in the top half of the state field in her senior year. She and Dorn are still teammates, now competing for the William Penn University golf team.
They left behind two returning letterwinners: junior Courtney Mabeus and sophomore Emily Cox.
Kelly expects that junior Brianne Holtkamp and freshmen Haley Booton and Ellie Shleisman, along with Mabeus and Cox, will play key roles for the team this season.
But in this rebuilding year, the Panthers will have to see who steps up. Kelly is anticipating that all his golfers will improve.
“This team will be very coachable and enjoys playing golf,” Kelly said. “They should make much improvement as the season goes on.”
The conference is still up for grabs, considering that many other SEC teams are also rebuilding after losing a number of athletes to graduation.
“Washington, Fairfield, and Keokuk should all be in a pretty similar situation as us, so the conference season could be very interesting,” Kelly said.
Kelly has been coaching Mt. Pleasant girls’ golf for more than 20 years.
The girls’ golf season is scheduled to start for the Panthers on Tuesday, April 2, at Fairfield.
They will host their first meet of the season on Tuesday, April 9, against Keokuk at Mt. Pleasant Golf and Country Club.