Prep Golf: Boyle's Rachel Pingleton glad to have teammates at state tournament
Boyle County senior Rachel Pingleton will be playing in her third state tournament this week, but she's happy to have her teammates also playing for the first time. (Mike Marsee / October 1, 2012)
Pingleton worked hard to put herself in position to get there in each of the last two years, but she found once she got to the state tournament site that something wasn’t quite right. She missed her Boyle County teammates, and she said that’s why her third and final trip to state means so much more to her than the first two.
Pingleton is happy to finally have some company in Bowling Green this week after Boyle qualifed as a team, and she said everything she has done in her two previous state appearances as an individual has been to prepare for the time when the team would be there.
“This is the trip that I’ve been wanting most,” Pingleton said. “Going alone was definitely a learning exprience, and that’s what I looked at it as the past two years. I just wanted to do the best I could do, of course, but I was going to learn along the way, so that whenever I would bring my team with me, I would help prepare them for what was ahead.”
Pingleton and four other Boyle girls — fellow senior Alexis Draut, sophomores Michaela Jarman and Caroline McDonald and eighth-grader Samantha Stewart — will tee off in succession Tuesday afternoon at Bowling Green Country Club in the first round of the 36-hole state tourney.
“She’s incredibly thrilled that finally her team gets to join her at state,” said Sharon Beasley, one of Boyle’s two coaches.
Boyle’s other coach, Sandy Waters, said she could see a year ago how much that would matter to Pingleton.
“When we were at state with Rachel last year, and we stayed for the awards ceremony afterwards, as the teams are going up to accept their awards, Rachel turns to Sharon and I and says, ‘I want my team to be here next year.’ So that was the goal for the year,” Waters said.
Now the goal for the Rebels, who ended the regular season ranked No. 5 in the state, is to finish as high as possible in the 22-team field. The field is cut to 11 teams and 20 individuals following the first round.
“I’m definitely thinking that we’re going to make the second day. I think our girls, if they just stay focused and do what they’ve been doing, the team will make it to the second day,” Pingleton said. “I know we’ve beaten some of these other teams that will easily make it (to state). So I’m hoping that we’ll have a pretty decent finish altogether.”
Such goals were far out of Boyle’s reach when Pingleton debuted on the team as a sixth-grader.
“It’s grown tremendously,” she said. “My very first regional tournament, nobody shot under a hundred — well, one girl did; I think I shot, like, a 107. I’ve changed a lot individually, but this team has just grown so much. We’ve gotten a lot better, and we’ve been able to do better as a team.”
“We definitely have some amazing coaches, and the girls, they want this. They’re working hard on their own, they’re working hard as a team, and they know how much this means, not only to themselves but to everybody. I think they’re really staying focused and putting their hearts to it.”
Pingleton has been putting her heart into another goal as well. While she wants to do her best for Boyle, she has also been working to raise her game to be ready to play at the collegiate level next year.
“I’ve just been trying to fine-tune things. I know as far as scoring goes I may not have changed much and my swing may be slightly different, but I just really have tried to fine-tune things and prepare myself for fuure years as far as college,” she said.
She credits Jenny Yang, a teaching pro in Nicholasville whom she began working with last winter, with helping her toward that end.
“She has helped me tremendously as far as my golf swing and my mental ability. My mental game has definitely improved,” Pingleton said. “I’ve worked really hard the past year, and I think it’s (gone) really well. Certain areas of my game have been tremendously better. I think as far as an overall golfer I’ve just grown a lot, and I think I’m prepared for the college level.”
She said Campbellsville and Cumberlands are the schools she is most strongly considering, and she said she will probably pick Cumberlands, whose coach, Chris Kraftick, was at Boyle’s regional tournament last week.
“That’s more than likely where I will end up,” she said. “They just have so much to offer me. He’s already looking at my swing now and knowing adjustments that he can make.”
Pingleton has played three rounds in two trips to the state tournament — she missed the cut by a single stroke in 2010 and tied for 34th place last year — while none of her teammates have played even one, so she knows she’ll be able to help them prepare for the course and the atmosphere and help them try to avoid the jitters she said she faced in her first time at state.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” she said. “I’m not going to lie, I was pretty scared. But it was enjoyable because it was a new experience. I was really glad to have that, but yes, I was very nervous.”
Waters said Pingleton can be a big help to her teammates in today’s practice round.
“The practice day for the team is going to be very important,” Waters said.
Pingleton said she wants to help in any way she can.
“I’m mainly going to just talk them through the holes and just tell them which holes are the bad ones, which holes to just take your par and bogey and just run with it. But just mainly I want these girls to have fun, enjoy the first experience and just stay focused and do the best that they can do,” she said.
Both Pingleton and Boyle have had a successful season — she won the Rowan County Invitational early in the season, and the team won two invitational titles — and she said she’s glad the entire group now gets to share the state tournament experience with her.
“Of course, being on a winning team is always great, and winning tournaments together is always fun, and especially now that we’re going to state together,” she said. “I know the state tournament will be so much more enjoyable because I’ll have somebody with me.”