Second-year girls golf coach Molly Nealy brings a ton of enthusiasm to her job.

And the Grants Pass native is optimistic that 2007 will be a rewarding season for both her and her team.

'We're going to be good,' Nealy said. 'It'll be a fun, good season.'

Nealy is counting on returning varsity golfers Amber Bertram, Sierra Warner, Becky Van Ausdell and Chelsea Ditmore to provide plenty of leadership to a team that has a good mix of youngsters and upper classmen.

'I'll definitely be counting on my veterans to be leaders,' Nealy said. 'I think they realize they need to step up with leadership on and off the golf course.'

An exciting new addition to the team is freshman Dalton Meade, a talented athlete with experience tending goal for the Pioneers' soccer team, and additional experience as a guard/forward for the girls basketball team.

'She has a phenomenal swing,' Nealy said of Meade. 'We're very excited to have her on our team. I have her as a student (at Sandy High School). She's a wonderful student, a pretty well-rounded individual.'

Nealy thinks her crew is much more focused this year than last, and the second-year coach - who has collegiate playing experience at San Diego State University - takes a lot of pleasure in sharing the nuances of the game with young players.

'I feel so lucky to have this position,' she said. 'I've been playing golf since I was 5 or 6. I've played a long time, and I love being part of the game whether I'm playing or teaching others the game.'

Nealy said she has learned a lot by shadowing her predecessor, Bill Hartman, and she feels she is well-equipped to pass on her knowledge of the game to a younger generation.

'That was really cool just to see (Bill)'s style and what he did,' she said. 'I think I took a lot from that.'

One of the things Nealy learned from Hartman is to set achievable goals.

And Nealy thinks her current batch of golfers is quite capable of reaching the goals it sets.

'I think we were one of the most improved teams last year,' Nealy said. 'Every week we were just shaving strokes, shaving strokes. Other coaches even said 'Wow - your girls really came alive toward the end.' And that was kind of cool, just seeing them become better players and having more confidence.'

A new challenge for all girls teams in the Mount Hood Conference this spring will be the implementation of 18-hole league matches, rather than nine.

'There will be six 18-hole league matches instead of 12 nine-hole matches,' Nealy said.

Ultimately, Nealy thinks the change is a good one and will help teams better prepare for postseason play. And Nealy noted that the junior varsity girls will continue to play nine holes, though.

'I think that's exactly what it should be,' she said, adding that 18-hole competition might be a tad overwhelming for younger students of the game.

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