A first glance at Northside Christian’s girls golf team might have opponents saying, “We are playing Northside Christian varsity, right?"
With no player older than a ninth-grader, the Mustangs don’t look like the most intimidating team. But once Northside’s players step on the first tee, preconceived notions disappear.
“I don’t ever think of age," Mustangs coach D.J. Jackson said. “Age has nothing to do with shooting a number. It’s not like anybody is pushing you or knocking you down or anything. It’s golf. A lot of the other schools have young players just like we do."
But few schools match the depth of Northside Christian. And while other schools might call ninth-graders freshmen, on this team they are considered veterans.
Sarah Noto, Alison Armstrong and Ryanne Jackson are the oldest players on the team. In fact, Jackson is in her fourth season of varsity play.
Ashley Zagers is the lone eighth-grader, but is in her third year on the team. Sydney York, Shoshanna Van Loan and newcomer Alyssa Lamoureaux are seventh-graders. Of the seven varsity players, four are homeschooled (Armstrong, Lamoureaux, Noto and Zagers).
All seven players have the ability to shoot in the 30s or low 40s for nine holes. All seven can hit it down the middle with their drivers and irons. There is no clear-cut No. 1, which works in their favor during team competition.
“Anyone can beat anyone on a given day," Ryanne Jackson said. “We’ve already seen that a few times this year. Somebody could have a really bad day, but then somebody has a really awesome day."
Northside Christian has been playing well heading into Thursday’s Mustang Invitational at Seminole Lake Country Club. The Mustangs, who have appeared in 10 straight state finals and won a state championship in 2004, will be tested against a deep field.
Then again, they’re tested every day in practice.
“We root for each other but we also have that competitive edge," Zagers said. “It makes us better."
D.J. Jackson said practices can sometimes be intense, which helps in matches.
“Nobody wants to lose in practice," Jackson said. “In practice, they really grind it out. That’s where you work at it and get better. Show up every day and try to get better."
The goal this season, as it is every season, is to advance to state. The Mustangs were runnerup as recently as 2009 and ’10.
Whether they repeat those performances remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: This young group will stand up to any team.
“We’re used to playing against older golfers," Zagers said. “In junior golf it’s mixed so we’re always competing against older golfers. We’re not intimidated."
When/where: Thursday, 1 p.m. shotgun start, Seminole Lake CC
Teams: Northside Christian, Palm Harbor University, Berkeley Prep, Indian Rocks Christian, Academy of the Holy Names, Tampa Prep, Countryside, Osceola
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.