BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — It is not by accident that three Anthony Wayne girls golfers are first-team All-Northern Lakes League selections.
That is virtually unheard of when a team does not win a league title, and the Generals finished second behind a talented Perrysburg team.
The AW golfers finished second in the league tournament at Eagle’s Landing Golf Course in Oregon. In dual meets, the Generals were 8-2.
However, the Yellow Jackets had two first-team selections and the Generals had three – senior Kayla Crandall and sophomores Lilly Black and CeCe Stamm.
All three have different histories with the game – Kayla, a three-year varsity starter for AW, has been playing since she was young, while Lilly and CeCe got more involved in high school.
“Kayla is the mainstay of the team, the only senior on the whole team and is just a quality kid,” AW coach Jim Hutchinson said.
Kayla said it started with her parents, Dean and Kelly.
“I started playing golf when I was little,” Kayla said. “My dad would take me to the driving range with him to hit some balls.
“Along the way, I got some lessons and joined some junior golf leagues. I honestly didn’t think it was a sport I’d be playing in high school,” Kayla continued.
“I’d have to give my dad the credit for turning me into a golfer. I am thankful for Coach Hutchinson and his help over the past four years.
“I also would like to thank Martha Mallott, who helped me improve my game over the past four years. She not only helped me on my golf swing, but also motivated me to keep working hard and not to give up, which was extremely helpful since golf can be a very mental game,” added Kayla.
This is Kayla’s second straight year making first-team All-NLL, which she calls “a huge accomplishment for me.”
“Especially with the fact that I have not used my driver in a single match throughout high school. I’ve never been successful using my driver, but hopefully I can learn how to hit it and gain some more yardage off my tee shots,” Kayla said.
Keeping Swings Separate
Lilly Black was the NLL Player of the Year in tennis this fall, and it helps that she plays tennis right-handed and golfs left-handed, so the swings do not mix too much.
“The two swings are very different,” Lilly said. “I think it’s important to warm up before each sport and I try to visualize a lot. I think it’s all about working with your muscle memory.”
A transfer from Notre Dame Academy, she is a nationally ranked tennis player. She did not start golfing seriously until the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Hutchinson says Lilly is a “natural athlete,” and she proved that to be true when her golf game developed inside of six months.
“This past spring, when a lot of things shut down, golf kept going,” Lilly said. “So, in May, I decided to try golf.
“I was absolutely terrible when I started. I remember I would swing and miss the ball, sometimes 10 times in a row.
“Two families, the Suttos and the Swishers (Findlay tennis coach Sean Swisher) would take me to the golf course, even though I was terrible, and were patient and coached me through each hole,” Lilly continued.
“That really made me love the game. Throughout the summer, I entered a few TJGA (Toledo Junior Golf Association) tournaments and just set a goal for myself at each one. I just try to play every day.”
When you look at how far Lilly’s game has come since then, most of us would be amazed.
“My drive is my best part of my game. I’m always working on my putting and hitting consistently in different weather conditions,” Lilly said.
“My main goal is to be hitting in the 70s consistently by the spring. As a team, we would like to work hard to win the NLL next year,” she continued.
“I have really enjoyed golf and have been able to meet so many new people because of it. The Anthony Wayne team is close, and Coach Hutchinson has been supportive of all of us. Anthony Wayne is a school with strong academics and sports teams. I’m lucky to be here.”
CeCe Stamm began golfing her freshman year as “just something to do.” Then, she began playing in the summers with her father and with friends “for fun” on a near daily basis.
“I like mostly meeting new people and stuff because if you play with fun people, it makes the game more fun, and I like playing with my teammates and team-bonding with them,” CeCe said.
She has seen her game develop to the point where she can pinpoint approach shots on a good day, but she admits there are parts of her game that still need work.
“The best part of my game is probably my approach shots, or making long putts, because sometimes I’m like, ‘Whoa, I just made an amazing approach shot from 150 out and its close to the pin,’ and then I’ll make a super-long putt or something,” CeCe said.
“I need to work on my chipping and my driver because it’s so inconsistent, but when I hit it well, it goes pretty far.”
Hutchinson said CeCe’s focus on the course is what carries her.
“All of them participated in all the junior league tournaments this summer, which helped, but CeCe is a very determined girl,” Hutchinson said.
“She gets down on herself when she doesn’t play well, more than anything else, but then she has given study to keeping control and she is really intense when she plays,” Hutchinson continued.
“I had her pegged before we went into the (NLL) tournament as probably the eighth or ninth player and then she came through with first team.”
Looking For More Success
This Wednesday, the AW girls were to participate in the Division I sectional tournament at Heather Downs Country Club in South Toledo.
“This year, it would be really cool if our team could advance at sectionals. Our team placed second in the NLL this year and we are hungry. I believe we want to advance more than anyone. We aren’t done yet,” Kayla said.
There is more to this team than the three first-team selections. Freshman Madison Mitchell was second-team All-NLL. Hutchinson said she is another nice surprise.
“I was hoping she was in the middle of the (top) 13 when we went into the tournament,” Hutchinson said.
“Her first shot in the tournament, she had an unplayable lie, and I thought, ‘Oh no,’ and then she comes in with a 44. Her and CeCe both play softball, too, so they have a lot of athletic ability.”
The rest of the team members are underclassmen, which bodes well for AW’s future.
“Two other girls who have been really coming along toward the end have been junior Lilly Finkler and sophomore Kennedy Kehres,” Hutchinson said.
“When you play in a match, you take the top four scores, and in the NLL tournament, there were three sophomores and a freshman for AW.”
Other varsity members contributing are juniors Lainey Gouin and Jill Sroczynski, sophomore Teagan Leigh and freshmen Karly Bocian, Kamryn Clark and Madisen Clowacki.
It is a smart group, too.
“We have eight girls who are sophomores and up and four freshmen, and of the eight sophomores on up, seven have an average of 4.0 and we have a team average of 3.93. I’m happy with that,” Hutchinson said.
The one senior, Kayla, is disappointed the season is nearly over, although AW can put that off by advancing in the sectional tournament.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s all almost over. I am so thankful for the past four years. More importantly, I am thankful that we were able to have a season this year,” Kayla said.
“I’m lucky to have met so many amazing people through this sport. Golf is something I can continue to play throughout my life. I am thankful for the four-year journey golf has taken me through,” she said.