Lions roar back and claim State golf title

(Above) Clear Lake Girls State Champion Golf Team - Members of the 2022 Clear Lake girls state champion golf team include front row (L-R): Head Coach Colby Andrews, Rebecca DeLong, Meghan DeLong, Lily James, Jaden Ainley, Meagan Paine, Macey Holck, and coaches Mark Holck and Mike Oimoen.

by Marianne Gasaway

The Clear Lake Lions saved their best until they needed it most.

The Lions roared back from 12 strokes down after day one to capture the Class 3A Girls State Golf Championship played Thursday and Friday at River Valley Golf Course in Adel.  The Lions trailed Gilbert, who finished just ahead of the third place Lions in 2021.

“In the van before day two with all the players, the only thing I said to them was, ‘How many tournaments have we won by 13 this year?  Whether that be a nine-hole meet or 18.  That is all we have today ladies, win by 13 and you will become State Champions.’” said Coach Colby Andrews. “They took what I said and ran with it.”

On Friday, the Lions were 15 shots better than the rest of the 3A field and finished three strokes better than runner-up Gilbert, 713 to 716.  

It was the first team title for Clear Lake girls golf since 2012.

Rylee Heryfold, of Newton, was the individual champion with a (75-74) 149. She defeated Eden Lohrbach, of Gilbert, (75-74) 149 in a three-hole playoff.

Meghan DeLong was Clear Lake’s top place winner.  She used steady exceptional play to finish third individually.  The sophomore shot 82 on day one and 81 on day two for a score of 163.

Going into hole 18 on day two of State, Rebecca DeLong was coming off her worst round of the year.  She was -1.  She came back after struggling with her driver and putting and played some gritty golf to tie for fifth place individually. Rebecca, a junior, shot 86 on day one and 81 on day two for a 167.

Jaden Ainley, the only senior on the Lion squad, finished in a tie for 18th.  

“I played my usual first day.  I was pleased with the score, said Ainley about her opening round of 89. Day two was a bit more challenging, but after two State basketball and two State golf appearances, she said she has learned to persevere.  “I’ve competed on some really big stages.  I just do what I do and don’t let it get to me.  The most I could do is be a leader and encourage my teammates.  Everyone played a part in this and there couldn’t be a better way to end a high school career.”

“After last season Jaden saw Washington win and said ‘I just want one of those pink shirts’” shared Coach Andrews.  “I think this fueled her and even with all of her basketball success, she knew this golf season was her last shot at a state title. She played a crucial role down the stretch on the back nine to make this happen.” 

Macey Holck provided Clear Lake’s fourth counting score.  The junior, who shot 103 on day one, moved herself into a tie for 30th place with a round of 96.

Juniors Meagan Paine and Lily James tied for 44th and 62nd respectively.  Paine had rounds of 109 and 102, while James carded 112 on day one of State and 117 day two.

Coach Andrews said his team was loose and in a positive mood the night before day two of competition. “I was confident we were going to make a comeback.”

Jaden Ainley’s grandfather, Mike Tarr, interjected a little bit of tradition and fun into the situation.  The night before day two, he got all the girls socks and asked them to write a motivational phrase or goal for the next day. According to Coach Andrews, he did the same thing for his son Brent’s team in 2011 when they were down 10 strokes heading into day two. They went on to win the title the next day. 

“Gilbert knew what we were capable of doing and had to sleep on the lead.  We had the comfort of knowing we just have to play Clear Lake golf on the second day,” said Andrews.

All the coaches and families could do on day two was sit back and wait.

“Coming into 18, the top four scores were a combined 14-over between them,” said Andrews. “This was the most clutch team golf I have witnessed as a coach. Every one of those players, including the two scores we didn’t take, showed the heart of a champion. That back 9 is the reason they are State Champions. They didn’t shy away from the moment, it wasn’t too big for them, and they embraced it.”

When all the numbers became final, tension turned into elation for the Lions.

“It was an extremely emotional moment for the team,” said Andrews.  “All the work the girls put in this off-season and during the season just paid off. They reached the mountain top of high school golf.  Once the news became final the tears started flowing and hugs for everyone involved players, coaches, parents, and family. It is a scene I will remember vividly for the rest of my life. These girls will be champions together for a lifetime.”

Andrews noted his 2022 team was a fun group who get along very well with each other.  That, combined with guidance from assistant coaches Mark Holck and Mike Oimoen was the recipe for success.

“It is hard to put into words the feelings and emotions that took place Friday afternoon,” said Andrews.  “The first thing that comes to mind is “We Did It”. This was our biggest goal and aspiration of the season. They showed exactly what it takes to become a champion and I couldn’t be more proud to be their coach. That moment was amazing and will last a lifetime for these young girls.”

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