By Susan Jenior | Correspondent
The Kent Roosevelt girls golf team has advanced faster than anyone would have expected or predicted when the program was recognized as a varsity sport just three years ago.
In that short time span the program has been under the direction of coach Bryan Harvey, the Rough Riders have won a league title, a sectional championship and a district crown. Additionally, they have sent two representatives to the state tournament in previous years.
On Friday, Kent Roosevelt took another step forward, advancing an entire team to the state championships with a roster filled with underclassmen: Juniors Kasey and Kelly Nielsen, sophomore Coreena Wise, along with freshmen Kory Nielsen and Chloe Wise.
The first day's 18-hole round didn't have the results the team had anticipated, as the Rough Riders currently sit in eighth place overall in the two-day event at the Ohio State University Gray Course. Kent Roosevelt had a strong group of supporters make the trip south on Friday.
Kasey Nielsen, making her second appearance at the state championships after finishing sixth overall last year, is off to another solid start this year. She fired a 7-over 77. She put together nine-hole rounds of 39 and 38 and sits in eighth place on the individual scoreboard.
"Kasey had another solid round at the state tournament," said Harvey. "She avoided the big score all day long."
Kelly Nielsen shot 10-over par after the first five holes, but then settled down to play the next 13 holes at 5-over.
"Kelly had some difficulty in the sand and then got too aggressive trying to save par, but after the 5th hole, she drove the ball well and had a lot of pars," said Harvey.
Kory Nielsen fired a respectable 82 that has her in 30th place as an individual.
"Kory had a double (bogey) and a triple that kept her out of the 70s," said Harvey.
Chloe Wise shot a 94 and Coreena Wise a 99 in their first-ever appearances at the state level.
"Coreena played very well on the front nine and shot a 43, but she struggled out of the sand on the back nine," said Harvey. "Take three rough holes off her scorecard and she shoots in the high 80s."
Harvey said that Chloe also had a good start on the front nine.
"That is an exceptional score for a freshman with only a handful of big-tournament experience."
Windy conditions and very fast greens kept the rest of the field from shooting exceptional scores, as well.
The best score in the clubhouse was Columbus Bishop Waterson's Erin Harper, who fired a 71.
Rocky River Magnificat leads the team scoring with a 310, three strokes ahead of perennial state champion Dublin Jerome.
Kent Roosevelt's team total, a 338, is only 15 strokes out of third and 11 strokes from the top five.
"We played ok today," said Harvey. "It's not as good as we can play."
Nerves can often play a big factor for a young team at the state tournament.
"Our hope for today is to play well in the expected poor weather conditions," said Harvey. "We need to remember that right now, we are one of the best eight teams in the state of Ohio, and we need to be proud of ourselves for making it here."
Kent Roosevelt tees off the first tee of the Gray course this morning at 9 a.m. with Cincinnati Sycamore and Medina Highland.
BOYS DIVISION I
The Division I boys are playing the Ohio State University Scarlet Golf Course, with locals to watch including Ian Holt of Stow and Chase Johnson of Walsh Jesuit -- both Kent State University recruits. Additionally, Twinsburg advanced as a team to the state-level tournament.
Johnson, after finishing second in the 2012 state tournament, started this year's two-day event with a 78 and currently stands in sixth place.
Holt, who finished fifth in the state in 2012, started Friday with an 81.
Twinsburg is currently in 10th place with a score of 353, which is 35 strokes out of first place.
Current individual leader is Nick Sparling of Dublin Coffman, who carded a 70.