There is a little bit of shock and awe driving the Jackson County girls’ golf team.
Her name is freshman Cierra Gunnin and right now she is consistently the team’s no. 1 player as the unexpected “mainstay” of the JCCHS varsity squad, coach Jeff Algard said.
“She is my oh-my-gosh surprise that came to the program,” he said. “We graduated three seniors last year and knew it would be a young team that would have to produce. But I was not expecting this. It has been a very nice surprise for all of us.”
Gunnin is not alone.
In girls’ high school golf, the coach selects four players before each 9-hole match to shoot for the team. Of those four players, the three with the lowest scores count to decide a team’s overall score.
So far, JCCHS is 9-1 in regular-season matches, a record that demonstrates the Lady Panthers are producing three consistent scores every time the team plays.
That alone sets JCCHS apart.
“A lot of teams are good with two players,” Algard said. “This team is gifted in that I have five to six who can play evenly amongst themselves.”
Juniors Haleigh McCullum and Jordan Garner and sophomore Katie Fife are returning starters and typically join Gunnin as the Lady Panthers’ core. Kayla Eison and Hattie Sewell are also in the varsity mix.
On Thursday, the group takes aim at another Jackson County Championship at Double Oaks Country Club. The event starts around 3:30 p.m. All the area high school teams participate.
JCCHS is defending champion. Last year, Fife came through for the team to help the Lady Panthers take first place, Algard said.
This year the coach believes that any one of the players can produce such momentum.
“We want (the county championships) to be something the kids want to be the best at,” he said.
The team’s attention will be geared quickly after Thursday to the region 8-AAA championship, which is scheduled for April 15 at Hard Labor Creek in Morgan County.
The format is tournament play, meaning the competition will be stretched over 18-holes.
This is one area where Algard sees room for improvement. In three tournaments this season, the Lady Panthers have performed so-so. When including tournament action, JCCHS has a 17-8 record.
The goal remains for the lowest shooting players to get into the 40s over 9-holes.
The top four teams to finish at the region tournament will go on to sectionals. In addition to performing in the sectionals, a team must score 320 or better to advance to the finals, which is the focus, Algard said.
“We have had our days when no we did not (shoot in the 40s over the 9 holes). I asked them (after tournaments), ‘Where do you think you could have corrected or saved you some shots?’ They were all able to answer,” Algard said. “A lot of the girls have been putting their effort into the regular season. The things we tried to work on last year they are trying to work on still, which is what we’ve put into practices. A lot of it comes down to the girls’ desire to compete.”