With a young group on the course, the Lady Eagles improved as the season went on. Not only that, but without a senior on the team, all of the golfers should be back next season to make another run at the state tournament.
“We are very excited about next season,” Nelson said. “All of the girls kind of came into the program together last year. They came within two strokes of qualifying for the state tournament (in 2012) and then getting there this year. All of that experience is something they can grow through, especially when they have another offseason.”
Nelson, the 2013 Cherokee Tribune Girls Golf Coach of the Year, said he can’t take much credit for the success.
“It was a lot of hard work the girls put in,” he said. “The progress they made from last year to this year — you can tell they are a very dedicated group of girls and they work hard at their craft. It shows. This year, it all just kind of came together.”
Between the 2012 and ’13 seasons, the Georgia High School Association made changes to the rules for girls golf.
Previously, three golfers played each round, and two scores counted toward the team total. Beginning in 2013, four played and three scores were counted.
While this hurt some teams, Etowah was one of the schools that benefitted from the change. Because of their depth, Nelson said the Lady Eagles were able to win a few matches they otherwise might not have.
“I thought we were a deep team and it worked well for us,” Nelson said. “We were pretty consistent this year, with all four girls scoring what they normally score, or we might have three that score well and one would have an off day, but one of the other girls would usually be able to carry that. For us, I really thought it was a benefit.”
In his time at Etowah, Nelson says he has seen an increase in the quality of players going out for the team. He noted that the talent has increased not only at Etowah, but across the county.
“I was thinking, when I first came into it six years ago, the average score on nine holes — you might have four or five girls break 50, and you thought that was pretty good,” Nelson said. “Now, you are seeing more than half the field break 50, and you are seeing girls break 40. It speaks to the quality in the county in general.”
Some coaches spend much of their time managing players and personalities, but Nelson said that wasn’t the case with his team this season.
“The girls are very competitive, but they mesh well,” he said. “Oddly enough, as individual as a sport like golf is, they are very team-centric. They all pull for each other and all want to see each other do really well. They are a very tight-knit group.”
Nelson said each of the girls on team will be competing in events this summer and into the fall.
“They are pretty well occupied,” he said. “I know the county started a fall league two years ago that they have all participated in, and I think that was beneficial. They’ve all got a busy offseason planned.”