Garner junior golfer Kayla Ward credits her solid work on the course so far this year to improved confidence in her putting. Garner coach Connie Barnes is a little more succinct.
“She needed to go to a new putter,” Barnes said of Ward. “The insert on her old one was starting to come out. She asked me if I thought it was affecting her putter and I told her, ‘Yeah, it has to be.’”
The new flat stick continued to work for the two-time Greater Neuse River 4A Conference individual champion on Tuesday at Pine Hollow Golf Club. She carded a 1-under-par 34 to grab medalist honors in the third league match of the season.
Garner – the perennial league champ – won with a 129 team total, seven shots ahead of West Johnston.
Ward’s lone birdie on her round came on the short, par-4 sixth, which measures just 222 yards from the red tees used in the match. Her tee shot left her about 40 yards to the green and her pitch rolled to within six feet of the cup.
“I’ve just been more confident with my putting,” Ward said of her improvement so far this season. “I feel like my putting is more controlled.”
The rest of her round was just eight simple, boring pars that gave her a six-stroke advantage over West Johnston’s Megan Britt in the individual race for medalist honors.
“She’s just so consistent,” Barnes said of Ward. “She doesn’t hit it a long ways, but she always hits the green in two and is rarely in any trouble.”
Tylor Whitley of Garner and West Johnston’s Grace Olmstead both finished with 43s. Clayton was third at 156, with Rolesville fourth (162), East Wake fifth (174) and Southeast Raleigh sixth (176).
The Trojans have won all three league matches so far this season, but they’re getting consistently better competition with the likes of West and Clayton, among others.
“The competition has been great this year,” Barnes said. “West Johnston has really stepped up and across the boards, we’re seeing a lot of better scores.”
Whitley, the only other GNRC golfer aside from Ward to be medalist in a match the past three seasons, is benefiting from a big summer of practice, Barnes said. And when the flip to the yellow tees for matches instead of the red tees used so far comes, she believes it will benefit Whitley a lot.
“She’s having to hit a lot of irons right now and that doesn’t suit her game,” Barnes said. “Once she backs up and gets that distance, it could really help her scores.”
Natalie Allen added a 52 for Garner’s third team score on Tuesday, while Jessica Hunter shot 55 and Catherine Johnsen had a 57.
The Trojans have five seniors on their roster, including Johnsen, Allen, Hunter and Whitley, along with Drake Baker.
“We’ve gotten a lot of good leadership and improving play from our seniors, even though they all haven’t played every year. Our goal is to qualify as a team for regionals and we feel like we can get where our scores are below 50 for the most part.”
West Johnston’s Landry Connors shot a 51, while Sophia Woznichak and Madyson Scott had matching 50s for the Comets.
Allyson Nowell led Rolesville with a 53, while Abby Taylor contributed a 54 for the Rams. Southeast Raleigh’s Annie Degraffenreid and East Wake’s Margaret Ann Andrews both shot 56. Knightdale’s lone competitor, Morgan Cox, had a 58.