Class AA State Golf Tournament
Heading into the 2005 golf season, the Melbourne Lady Bearkatz knew they had a roster stocked with talented freshmen and sophomores, giving head coach Phyllis Harmon hope for the future.
What the Lady Katz might not have known at the start of the season is that the future is here and now.
Building on a strong finish to the regular season, Melbourne won its first ever state championship in girls' golf with a tight victory over Benton Harmony Grove Sept. 26 at Fairfield Bay.
The Lady Bearkatz shot a team total of 313 in the Class AA State Golf Tournament, eight strokes better than the runners-up from Harmony Grove.
Sophomore Sarah Moser paced Melbourne's title victory with a 101, while classmate Abby Cooper carded a 102, and freshman Laura Basquez a 110 in count-three play.
Olivia Morris, a sophomore, finished with a 113 for the Lady Bearkatz.
Salem and Conway St. Joseph tied for third-place honors with team scores of 341 each.
"This is really exciting. It's a big thing for us," said Harmon, in her third year at the helm of the Lady Bearkatz golf team. "We're just excited to have another state championship here at Melbourne."
And Harmon knows a thing or two about state titles at the Izard County school. She was a member of the 1973 Melbourne Lady Bearkatz basketball team that won a state championship by beating Guy-Perkins in the finals, giving Melbourne its first state title in any sport.
When asked how it felt to have a hand in the only two state titles won in girls' sports at Melbourne to date, Harmon replied, "It's extra special. That's something that these girls will never forget," she said. "It's something they can carry with them throughout the rest of their lives. My teammates and I still talk about the basketball championship that we won in '73, so these girls can do the same now. I'm so proud of them."
Golf championships are nothing new at Melbourne; the boy duffers won the 2002 Class AA State Tournament, giving the school three state championship trophies for its display case, two in golf and one in hoops.
The Lady Bearkatz turned in a regional-tourney winning performance at their home course at Cooper's Hawk, after coming in second in the 2AA District Tournament.
It was after they captured the regional tournament that the Lady Bearkatz began to think about how their chances in the state round might shake out.
"After the regional tournament, we looked at the scores we shot and thought they might hold up in the state tournament," Harmon said. "So that gave us some encouragement going in."
And hold up they did, as the young Lady Katz slipped past the Lady Hornets.
"These girls are just really athletic, which works well on the golf course," said Harmon. "And they get great support at home. They all started playing the game young and have developed along the way."
Moser, Cooper and Basquez all earned All-State honors for their play at Fairfield Bay.
"Sarah and Abby have really led the way for us. They shoot about the same, overall," said Harmon. "They're just really good athletes. And Laura is as well; she's had a good year. Olivia was out with a foot injury, and came back right before the district tournament, and (freshman) Sadie Price is playing her first year."
This youth bodes well for Melbourne, as Harmon can expect to have a seasoned group of veterans around the next couple of years, a big plus in the Lady Bearkatz' plans to defend their title.
Another bonus for the Melbourne golf teams, according to Harmon, is to have facilities like those provided at Cooper's Hawk right in their home town. "It's a big advantage for us to have Cooper's Hawk," she said. "The girls can play there any time they want in the summer, which is a huge help. They (Cooper's Hawk) have been very good to us."
Harmon hopes that the finish to the Lady Katz' season this year will inspire more girls to pick up golf clubs and hit the greens in the future.
"Girls' golf is getting bigger. It's not where it needs to be yet, but it is growing," she said. "Hopefully this will be an incentive to get more girls playing the sport."