by: Dave Ball, Sandy's girls golf team will be led by Becky VanAusdell.

New girls golf coach Steve Shields takes over a program that has struggled, but he has high hopes and great expectations for his team.

'We will use this season as a building block for the future, but we don't want to throw the season away,' Shields said. 'My goal is for every girls to shave strokes off their scores by the end of the season.'

Shields takes over for Molly Nealy who took a leave of absence due to pregnancy. Shields comes in with over 26 years of playing experience and is a two-handicap golfer. He has also has been the club champion at Gresham golf course for five years straight.

'I've coached soccer before but this is the first time I have coached golf,' Shields said. 'The difference is that in soccer it is more a team environment and in golf it's a little bit more selfish.'

Sandy's top golfer, sophomore Dalton Meade, returns to lead a team of seven juniors and three incoming freshman. Danielle Behrends, Jordan Shields and Becky VanAusdell also return to lead a young, inexperienced roster of golfers.

Meade finished as the Pioneers top golfer at districts last year with a two-day score of 195. Other returning golfers that played well at districts last season are VanAusdell (201), Behrends (210) and Shields (223) and coach Shields knows improvement is right around the corner with a little work.

'Right now I am working on basic skills with the girls, we are working very hard on improving their short games,' Shields said. 'I've told them that the easiest, quickest way to shave shots is by improving their chipping and putting.'

Meade had an up and down season but has the best swing of the golfers on the Pioneers even though last season was her first year playing golf competitively.

Shields said he has hopes of his girls getting private lessons for major improvements, but understands that most improvements will come from his teachings.

'The hardest part is the price of golf and I understand that most of their improvements are going to be from what we do together. We have talked about basics and how any decisions they make on the course can effect the team,' Shields said. 'I basically have tried to teach them about the decisions they make will effect the team.'

Incoming freshman Jaime Ladd, Mackensie Sempert and Taylor Shields, while lacking experience have the skills needed to be good golfers.

'I think the three newcomers have the ability to really improve over the season and will surprise a lot of people at the end of the year,' Shields said.

Shields said that this season will be a re-building program with eyes towards next season but he is not giving up on success this year.

'I think that by the end of the season, we should have major improvement on our team. The girls are focused and practicing hard right now with eyes on improving,' Shields said. 'I am a very positive person and I will try to accent what they are doing right and try to take as much pressure off them as I can during the season.'

Sandy will have a tough time contending for the conference title, as St. Mary's and Gresham are two of the top teams in the area.

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