by Martin McConnell
The Highland girls golf team went on a tear in its tournaments this year. To cap off an incredible season, the Lady Hornets recently finished their sweep of Suburban League Conference tournaments, going 4-0 and capturing the American Conference title.
Head coach Mary Becker has coached Highland’s girls golf team for 15 years, overseeing the Hornets’ transition from a club team to a fully-sanctioned powerhouse varsity squad. Becker, who recently took home Coach of the Year honors in the Suburban League, noted just how much talent Highland has.
“We have a lot of depth,” Becker said. “I have a lot of kids who I think would play varsity on many other teams, and be maybe in their top three. But for us, they’re just trying to get a varsity spot here.”
Becker specifically touched on just how diverse this year’s team is. In addition to talented freshmen, the team has a great group of upperclassmen and yet a distinct lack of seniors. That longevity, she said, can help team chemistry.
“I have really good kids who really understand what it takes to be an excellent high school golfer. … They’re one of the better teams I’ve had at this point,” Becker said. “I’ve had a lot of good teams, and I think this team is right up there with them.”
Becker stressed that the key to golf, especially in high school, is taking time to understand both the details and fine mental points of the game. Taking the time to compete, especially in the offseason, can raise a player’s profile perhaps more than anything else.
“There’s some different entities that run tournaments through the summer and through the offseason,” Becker said. “Making the commitment to playing in those events, to having a swing coach. … Most of our kids do not just show up day one, and haven’t played all summer.”
Becker praised the entire Hornets girls golf squad, but specifically highlighted Isabelle Goyette as the team’s top player. Earlier this year, Goyette broke the Shawnee Hills Golf Course record to help Highland win this year’s Independence Classic.
“She’s probably one of the best golfers in northeast Ohio as far as junior girls,” Becker said. “Number one, she’s physically strong. She can hit the ball farther than a lot of men can hit the ball. … She’s very steady emotionally, through a round. I think that’s really important in golf.”
That mental toughness is something that Becker stresses in her coaching philosophy, along with physical ability.
“[We] work on the mental side of the game,” Becker said. “Their swing coaches work on the physical part, and we work a lot on short game in practice. We work a lot on the thought process. … The course management side is really what we try to work on.”
Becker’s team tries to always have a plan. She wants all of her players to be able to think on the fly, plan and re-plan, and make strategic decisions when something goes wrong and they need to get out of a bad situation.
The players on this team are talented, but Becker noted that the team’s success comes from a shared desire to listen to coaching and get better. At the heart of the Hornets’ incredible season is a group of girls who constantly want to improve in all areas of the game.
“If you want to build a house, you need as many tools as you can have, and the more tools you have, the more things you can do,” Becker said. “It’s the same thing on the course. … It doesn’t have to be your favorite tool, but it might help to have it in your toolbox.” ∞