Growth on the greens: Packer girls put up their best score in 15 years

Published 7:20 pm Monday, April 24, 2023

The Austin girls golf team shares a lot of laughter in its practices, but when meet day arrives, those smiles turn into focused stares and the Packers get to work.

The spring weather has yet to provide ideal golf conditions, but the Packers are already making a name for themselves in the Big Nine as they put up their best score in 15 years in a home meet at Austin Country Club Monday.

The Packers posted a score of 375 to take third place in the seven-team invite and they may be just getting started as the team has a varsity roster that is made up of two sophomores and four eighth graders.

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Sophomore Izzy Sellers, who shot a 93 on Monday, remembers when the team struggled to post scores under 500 a few years ago.

“It’s definitely different this year. Anna (Kossman and I) consider ourselves the team old ladies I guess, and the younger girls look up to us. The middle schoolers are kind of crazy, but they make it a lot of fun. They make it less stressful and we all bond really well together,” Sellers said. “We have fun at practice and we get our game face on. We focus more when it comes to competing.”

Austin head coach Dave Brown knows his team has some serious talent, but he said it is their support for one another that has led to the vast improvement. The Packers also have an intense drive to compete.

“They grow every meet. It’s kind of amazing,” Brown said. “What I like to see is that they’re competitive and they’re not happy with their scores. They come in and they’re upset with scores that are fantastic. They know they can do better and that’s how we’re going to do better.”

Eighth grader Ailani Thiravong shot an 86 to lead the Packers on Monday. She plays in a lot of summer tournaments throughout the Midwest, but Thiravong especially appreciates her time with her Austin teammates in the spring.

“We’ve grown and evolved together. I really enjoy playing with the team,” Thiravong said. “We all want to see each other do really well. We’ve done really well in the last couple of years and I’m excited to see where we can go.”

Austin eighth grader Sydney Lewis, who shot a 94 on Monday, has thrived on the greens while also moonlighting as a distance runner on the Austin track and field team this spring. Lewis, who also played basketball and ran cross country this year, is a four-sport varsity athlete as a middle schooler, which has helped her keep her cool on the course.

“I always try to take it one hole at a time and not get in my head too much,” Lewis said. “Golf is super fun and I like all of the girls on this team. We all learn from each other and we always have so much fun in practice.”

Practice is where the Packers have gotten better over the past few years and with a young and dedicated team, they are likely to make many more improvements in the future.

“We’ve gotten a lot better over the past couple of years and it’s been great to see our whole team grow,” Sellers said. “I’ve gotten so much better since my first year and it’s been really fun to grow as a team. Being in golf has helped me learn many new skills like patience, honesty and teamwork.”

Team standings: 1. Byron 359; 2. PIZM 370; 3. Austin 375; 4. Rochester Mayo 386; 5. Stewartville 398; 6. Rochester Century 411

Austin scoring: Ailani Thiravong, 86; Izzy Sellers, 93; Sydney Lewis, 94; Lucy Annis, 102; Reagan Harty, 112; Anna Kossman, 114