With both Kenston and Hawken losing three scorers from last year, the Chagrin Valley Conference girls golf tournament was up for grabs this season.
With a personal-best round by their top golfer and a surprise freshmen addition, however, the Lady Bombers were able to secure their fifth straight CVC crown after winning the postseason tournament at Gleneagles Golf Club in Twinsburg last week.
Posting a team score of 377 strokes, Kenston defeated runner-up Independence, 388 strokes, and third-place Hawken, 392 strokes. Also competing in the tournament, Aurora carded a 399, Perry a 412, Berkshire a 463, Orange a 483 and Cuyahoga Heights a 496.
Hawken junior Isabella Joseph was the tournament medalist with a 75-stroke round. “After the front nine, we were probably down and just righted the ship to play consistently on the back nine, and we overtook Independence,” fifth-year Kenston head coach Kip Freeman said. “It’s something that we put as one of our goals for the year, was to win the conference, even though it was going to be a tough year to repeat.”
Leading the Lady Bombers, senior Samantha Cumley shot a career-best round of 79 strokes, including 37 strokes on the front nine.
“I actually played, like, my shots were really good, but my putting really suffered a lot,” she said. “I think I hit like seven or eight three-putts, which wasn’t very good for me. But to still come out with a 79, which was actually my lowest round I’ve ever had, was really good for me. So my shots were on, and I think I just kind of kept calm and just played how I know how.”
Cumley is the only returning Kenston player who was a contributing scorer from last season.
“I thought we didn’t have a chance, because I was the only one left,” she said. “I’ve been trying to just keep my team motivated to have as much passion as I do for golf, because I do really love it, and it’s the only sport I play. I just want to make sure we have fun but still were competitive.”
Freshman Aya Henry, meanwhile, was Kenston’s second-low shooter with a 94-stroke round. Her older sister Nicki, a 2011 graduate who now plays at Eastern Kentucky University, finished 10th at the Division I state tournament as a junior and fifth as a senior.
The younger Henry, however, played tennis and volleyball in middle school, so coach Freeman was surprised when she decided to join the high school golf team this fall, he said.
“She has only played golf for five months and happens to be a good talent,” Freeman said. “I kept bugging her sister for the last four years to just say, ‘Hey, make sure your sister comes out for golf.’ And she kept saying, ‘She likes tennis. She likes tennis.’ So I kind of wrote her off, and then all of the sudden she wants to play. I didn’t know what we were going to get, but I knew she was athletic, and I watched her swing and know that she will definitely be a much better golfer in the years to come.”
Kenston senior Carole Nelson is the Lady Bombers’ No. 3 golfer this year, carding a 101-stroke round at the CVC tournament – 11 strokes better than what she shot out of the sixth position last year.
Freeman said he remembers when he started working with Nelson four years ago and she couldn’t hit the ball 50 yards off the tee.
“And now she’s hitting it a couple hundred yards,” he said. “She played in a tournament in the beginning of the year and shot an 89, which is the lowest round she’s ever shot. The other day she shot a 44. So she’s a golfer now, and it’s been nice seeing her grow.”
In much of the same shoes, senior Tori Doran carded a 103-stroke round as Kenston’s No. 4 shooter for the conference crown.
“Tori is another one who played in a couple varsity matches last year but moved up to be a scorer this year,” Freeman said. “Her and Carole came out this past Sunday and hit balls for 2 1/2 hours, because they knew how import this was to get ready for the tournament. It was a hard course, and she shot a 103. So it was a nice improvement.”
After Kenston lost its first nine-hole dual match to a CVC opponent in the last five years – against Hawken, 190-196, on Aug. 26 – the Lady Bombers’ main focus in the last couple weeks has been their chipping and putting, Cumley said.
The Lady Bombers work a lot on their swings in the preseason and have better mechanics than most teams, she said.
“Right now, it’s just learning how to putt, because putting saves a lot of strokes, and it’s so easy to work to get better,” Cumley said. “Changing your swing isn’t what you want to do at this point in the season. You want to work with what you have and then kind of just get comfortable with your routine. That’s the most important thing right now.”
Up next, the Lady Bombers tee off at 9 a.m. Sept. 29 for the Division I sectional tournament at Tamer Win Golf and Country Club in Cortland.
Hawken’s Joseph, meanwhile, finished runner-up in the Division II sectional tournament at Punderson with a 77-stroke round on Monday and will compete in the district tournament Sept. 30 at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Canton.