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Photo by Diane Cox
Tori Hays putts at Rolling Hills Golf Course.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Natalie Long, front, and Tori Hays work on putts in warm-ups.
GODFREY – The best season in Alton High girls’ golf history has sparked a resurgence in the program. Little wonder.
The Redbirds went 17-1 last year, snared their first Southwestern Conference championship and were regional runners-up. So they are seeking more of the same this season, coach Carey Cappel said. Success breeds success.
Alton was scheduled to open its season Wednesday with a dual match against rival Marquette Catholic at the Spencer T. Olin Community Course. The Redbirds didn’t participate in this week’s Madison County tourney at Belk Park in Wood River because of a scheduling conflict.
Come Aug. 30, they’ll be at Olin for the high-powered Marquette Blast-Off event. The Birds have added the Illinois-Missouri River Challenge to their schedule. It’s set for Sept. 27 at The Orchards in Belleville.
“Last year was great and it was a huge confidence builder for the girls,” Cappel said. “They really worked, set the bar high and saw the program come full circle.”
Back in 2011, the Redbirds went 1-13. They improved to 9-8 a year later and then made a major jump last fall.
“We’re starting fresh this year and we’re really looking forward to it,” said Cappel, intent on the Redbirds maintaining their edge. She doesn’t expect any complacency and it’s easy to see why.
Top gun Tori Hays, a senior and the AdVantage News’ Female Prep Player of the Year, returns. So do seniors Natalie Long and Courtney Hachmann, giving the Redbirds three quality golfers at the top of their lineup.
“I’m looking for great things from those three golfers,” Cappel said. “I can’t say enough about all of them.”
Hays won the conference championship last season, took third in the Quincy Class 2A Regional, qualified for the state finals and finished 31st at state.
“She’s a workhorse,” Cappel said. “Tori always rises to the occasion and one of her goals this year is to go back to state and place higher.”
Cappel added, “Long is a hard worker and has improved immensely since her freshman season. Hachmann is always positive, she had a great summer and is basically like having a coach out there on the course.”
Two more seniors – Samantha Patton and Ashley Orr – add to the mix. Patton has played for the Redbirds since her freshman season. Orr is a three-year player.
Junior Katie Keller, sophomore Annie Maynard and sophomore Morgan Bemis will give the Redbirds ample depth. Thus, Cappel has eight players contending for varsity playing time.
“We’re looking to be the best we can be,” Cappel said.
She senses a promising season, but realizes the Redbirds won’t serve as a surprise for most teams this season.
“We’ll have a target on our backs,” Cappel said.
“I’m not trying to think about what we did last season. We’re focused on this season,” she said. “It’s a new season, so anything can happen.”
Other key tournaments include: the O’Fallon Invitational (Sept. 5), the Alton Invite at The Woodlands (Sept. 13), the Belleville East Yorktown Tournament (Sept. 18) and the SWC tourney at Belk Park (Sept. 30).