Averi Cline and Iris Cao had a good idea of what they were getting into.
Both were just freshmen heading into the 2019 golf season, but they knew of and felt the kind of expectations that Lambert’s girls golf program put on itself — and the disappointment that the team felt after the 2018 season, when their string of five straight state title wins was snapped. The pressure was on.
“It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but everyone was really supporting,” Cao said. “The coaches explained everything to us, even though I didn't understand anything about how everything worked. I didn't understand how area and state worked.”
Cao and Cline learned what they needed to know quickly, though, and when Lambert inevitably made it back to state, they were ready. Cline was the low medalist, shooting 147, one stroke ahead of junior teammate Rachel Burrell. Cao shot 159 and finished with a season average of 76.2, while Cline averaged 75.8 on the season.
“It felt pretty amazing, because golf is such an individual sport,” Cline said. “It was really nice to win something as a team and have everyone there to celebrate with. I've never really felt winning as a team, and I think that was really special.”
Cao hasn’t totally left that individual mindset at the door, though: “We got letterman patches,” she excitedly interjected.
Both Cline and Cao admit that in terms of the game itself, it’s not that much different than what they did in middle school. The state championship taught some lessons, though: After day one, Mill Creek trailed by just two strokes, and on both days, Cline didn’t feel like she started well. For her and Cao, it was all about focusing on being better than themselves.
“I think I learned that if it's not going (well) at the beginning, that you can still end well and push through because you have a whole team behind you,” she said. “I think that really helped me.”
Now, Cline and Cao hope to take everything they’ve learned this year into their sophomore seasons, where they’ll have a chance to help carry the reputation that Lambert girls golf has had over the last six years.
“I think we were able to pull it out just because at the end, you didn’t really care if you won or not,” Cline said. “I think we were just out there having fun. I think we all perform better when we're out there having fun and cheering everyone on. I think in the end that's why.”