FIREFOX VILLAGE — Keith Parsons and the Richmond girls golf team are keeping things simple as they prepare for the upcoming season. There’s hardly any talk about where they expect to finish in each match, where they’ll end up in the final conference standings, or who they think will advance to the NCHSAA Regionals and/or State Championships.
For right now, it’s only about Parsons and his players making sure they get the best out of one another — every time they arrive at a course for either a practice or a match — throughout what will be a new experience for everyone involved.
“I don’t want to put out a goal … We just want to compete the best we can and get better,” Parsons explained. “You’re going to have bad days and bad holes, but (I want to) make it where these girls feel like playing golf has been a positive experience … I think it’ll be a successful year if we can just achieve that.”
The 2018 season will be Parsons’ first as head coach. He inherits a team that has four returners and four newcomers.
Natalie Davis, Kylie McDonald and Gabby Paone, all seniors, and Hailey Miller, junior, make up the group that’s looking to build on what they were able to accomplish last season. Kenleigh Frye, Kirsten McDonald and Taylor Young, all freshmen, and Jessi Graham, senior, are the four who Parsons expects to steadily improve in their debut campaigns.
Miller, the only player to advance to States in 2017, is the Lady Raiders’ top returning golfer.
She has stepped into a leadership role and been instrumental in teaching the younger crowd — she played with Frye and Young during Wednesday’s practice at Firefox Golf & Resort — about rules and ettitquette around the golf course.
As for her play, Miller’s focus has been lowering her average and getting better on her putts once she’s on the green.
“I expect great things from her on the course,” Parsons said, “but off the course, I think she’s going to be a big leader for us.”
Davis, who also made the regional tournament last year, Kylie McDonald and Paone have played all three years of their high school careers and bring a level of experience that Frye, Graham, Kirsten McDonald and Young can learn from as the season moves along.
“We’ve got a really nice blend of experience. I just want to help them achieve their potential the best I can,” Parsons added.
Richmond has eight girls on its roster this season but only six are allowed to compete in a match, so now players will have to qualify each week for an opportunity to play on gameday — something they didn’t have to do last year.
“I think it’ll be great. They know that every week they’ve got to bring their best,” Parsons said of the intrasquad competition. “We have some girls who are very even, on the same competitive level, so it’s all good nature at this point.”
The Lady Raiders will open the season next Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Bayonet Golf Course at Puppy Creek.
The match will be hosted by conference opponent Hoke County and will tee off at 2 p.m.
“I’m very excited. We’ve got a really good roster, the girls are really into it and having fun, so I’m ready to go,” Parsons said.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.