DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Seniors guide golfers through another season

It’s time to tee the ball up and let it fly.

The high school golf season is ready to start, and Xavier Prep’s Gators are poised to claim the 35th state championship in the school’s history and seventh in a row.

Those impressive numbers have not been as easy to achieve as some might think. XCP’s run might be considered even more noteworthy because the cast of characters changes every year. Some graduate, some arrive and the process begins again.

Athletic director and co-head coach Sr. Lynn Winsor likes to rely on the leadership of her seniors, and two filling that role in 2017 are Lauren Faulkner and Madeline Brown.

“We have great team enthusiasm, and these girls are a big part of that,’’ Winsor said. “Tui (Selvaratnam, co-head coach) and I could not ask for two better people. They are kind, they are friendly, and they are “peppy.’ '’

We will see how “peppy’’ when the team has its brief dance (30 seconds to a minute) at the fall sports pep rally on Sept. 6 in the Activity Center.

“It should be a “classic,’ ‘’ Winsor said. “This team will have a lot of fun this year.’’

Part of the fun is the tradition of bringing cookies each match to share with the purveyors in the various pro shops of the courses on which they play, as well as opposing teams. Brown appears to be one of the top Xavier distributors.

“We will have a lot of talent out on the course this year,’’ Brown said.

“It’s fun to go out and meet the new players,’’ Faulkner said. “It’s always different from the last year. Every year, it seems like we have a different personality. It will be interesting to see where that takes us.’’

Both players have continued to improve their game by practicing and playing dozens of rounds since last season.

Faulkner said her scores “have come down a lot. I think I am much more confident. Playing a lot has kind of forced me to be confident. Skill-wise, one of the biggest things for me is that my chipping is better and that has improved my accuracy.’’

The mental aspect of the game also has created more maturity for Brown.

“I have always put a lot of pressure on myself, but now I am relaxing more and playing more,’’ she said. “I still put pressure on myself, but it’s not the same as before. I am able to push those (uncertain) thoughts aside. And my drives have helped my game. I think I have more strength and I’m hitting longer drives. That is important.’’

The girls are enjoying their responsibility as leaders.

“As team captains, we want to be able to help the younger girls,’’ Faulkner said. “That’s the way it was when we were younger, and we want to keep that going.’’

The Gators will be on the course quite a bit this week. They feature one of the state’s top players in sophomore Ashley Menne, the state co-medalist from 2016.

They open the new season on Tuesday (Aug. 22) with a home match at Phoenix Country Club against Scottsdale Desert Mountain. They will follow that up with a road match against Anthem Boulder Creek at the Anthem Country Club.

Friday (Aug. 25) and Saturday (Aug. 26) will be big days. The team will participate in the Nighthawk Invite hosted by Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge. The event will be played at the Omni Tucson National course, which will be the site of the Division I state tournament Oct. 30-31.

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