Steamboat girls golfers embracing continued experiment | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat girls golfers embracing continued experiment

Austin Colbert

— The little, chocolate-covered almond balls bore an uncanny resemblance to golf balls. And it made sense, as Natural Grocers health coach Alicia McLeod made them for the Steamboat Springs High School girls' golf team during their weekly nutrition class Thursday at the downtown store.

Getting to practice with actual golf balls is easier said than done for a team located in the mountains, where the high school golf season might be over by the time local courses are ready for play.

Still, this hasn't stopped the school from forming its first girls' golf team this spring, one that has taken a rather unusual approach to practice.

"It's definitely different, but we are making it work," sophomore Amanda Perlman said. "This year, I think it's more about the experience. I don't think any of us are worried about doing the best. It's more about learning and having fun."

Perlman — one of the team's best golfers — was among the most vocal of the students who wanted a girls' golf program. With roughly a dozen girls, local pro Shannon Hanley took the reins as coach earlier this year, knowing the challenges they faced building a golf program that would have few chances of actually practicing the game on a real course during the season.

"What Shannon is doing, she is treating the team like a professional team," Steamboat yoga and fitness instructor Charlie Chase said. "We are doing a program that is going to build some nice strength for the girls, and they get to use these things for the rest of their life. These are skills they can use way beyond golf. That was Shannon's whole vision, which is great."

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In lieu of having an actual course to practice on — the nearest operational course is in Craig, and it only opened last week — the team uses Hanley's personal golf studio to train. The studio is equipped with a small putting green and computerized hitting bay.

Beyond that, Hanley is making their training as holistic as possible. The team trains at Hanley's studio Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with part of Tuesday spent on sports psychology and the mental side of golf. Each Thursday, the girls meet with McLeod at Natural Grocers for a nutrition class, and Fridays, Chase joins them at the high school for yoga and strength training.

Both McLeod and Chase have also put much emphasis on managing stress and regulating energy levels through diet and exercise.

"My family, we are not into this health stuff. So, it's kind of cool to learn about it and how it actually does help, and it does affect you more than you think it does," said junior Riley Toye. "Honestly, it's great. Shannon is great. I want people to have her as a coach, because she really is good at what she does."

Between persistent winter weather and other player obligations, the Sailors have only played in two tournaments this spring, both in Grand Junction. With little competitive golf background among the girls and limited time on a course, the results were varied. The team did finish sixth out of 10 in a scramble at one of the tournaments.

The Sailors are excited about the last month of the season, however. They are scheduled to play a tournament Monday in Gypsum and Tuesday in Carbondale. After a tournament April 25 in Grand Junction, Steamboat will play in a tournament in Craig on April 26. The Yampa Valley Golf Course also happens to be where the regional tournament will take place on May 7.

"That will be our first test on grass after the girls have been hitting inside for a month," Hanley said of Monday's tournament. "It's going to be hard to tell how they are going to do. But they are excited to play, and I'm excited to take them. They are a great group of girls."

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert