Not liking the longshot odds she faced to make the Olympics as a speedskater, Emma Bawinkel turned to a far less intense activity.
The fact that she can play golf deep into her adult life played a big role in the Brown County junior’s decision to give that sport a try.
“It’s such a narrow path to go on speedskating,” said Bawinkel, who trained at Hamilton Center Ice Arena in Columbus. “It was kind of an iffy sport, and I wanted a sport that would stick with me for a long time. I picked up golf and really started to love it.”
The Eagles are glad she did.
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Although Bawinkel picked up a club for the first time just 16 months ago, she has set the school’s nine-hole record three times with 43, 41 and finally 37 against Trinity Lutheran at Salt Creek Golf Course.
The team also set a nine-hole record that day with a 194.
In her first season of golf last fall, Bawinkel’s best scores were 48 for nine holes and 98 for 18. She’s lowered those to 37 and 94, while improving her average from 53.5 to 45.6.
“I just want to keep breaking my own records,” Bawinkel said. “That’s kind of the point of golf for me. I like to see how far I can go with it.”
Eagles Coach Brad Baughman saw the potential in her last season.
“We didn’t know how much she would devote herself to the game,” Baughman said. “Since last year ended, Emma really got involved. She’s out here (at Salt Creek) as often as she can be out here. She’s dedicated, even in bad weather.”
And she’s not the only team member who made some impressive strides this year, Baughman said.
Freshman Ashley Masteller acted as a manager for the team last season and established herself pretty early in the season as the No. 2 player.
“That was a great addition to our roster, to have a freshman who had already played the game a little bit,” he said. “I think her career here with three more years left, she could very well eclipse any record that Emma sets, just because she’s going to have lots of opportunity to do it.”
At the Bloomington North Sectional Sept. 21, the Eagles dropped 69 strokes off their previous score on the same course, taking seventh place out of nine teams competing.
The Eagles carded a 420 in the Western Indiana Conference Tournament at Idle Creek in Terre Haute and a 195 in a dual-match win against Owen Valley at Salt Creek.
“It was awesome for our whole team to break that record,” Bawinkel said. “We all came together and did a great job, so I was happy about that.”
And they followed that up with the 194 against Trinity Lutheran.
The team records Brown County has set this year are 21 and 30 shots better for nine and 18 holes, respectively, than its best scores last season.
The Eagles’ WIC tourney score was 72 shots better than in last year’s conference event on the same course.
“We thought that this could be a good year for us to build and to move forward, and it certainly has been,” Baughman said. “Some of our scores last year were disappointing. We weren’t as competitive. We are certainly more competitive than we used to be.
“The numbers that we’re posting now are good,” he said. “They’re not going to raise a lot of eyebrows maybe in the area in terms of top-notch teams, but for a program only in its fourth year, and for girls that are only in their second or third year of having a golf club in their hand, I think we’ve brought our numbers down considerably, and it’s certainly gratifying to see that they’re getting the basics and that some of our hard work has paid off.”
Baughman gave a lot of credit for the improvement to his co-coach, Ben VanNess, and to the dedication all the girls have shown.
“Across the board, we’re anywhere between seven to 10 strokes better per girl,” he said. “Even the ones that didn’t get to play a lot, any time that they did get to play, they improved.”
The team has no seniors this year, so the nine-member roster — one of the deepest at sectionals this year — won’t lose any of its talent.
“I really think that next year would be an opportune time — with Emma being a senior and Tori (Akles) being a senior, and Tori will be our first four-year player to come through here — I don’t want to put too much pressure on us, but if there ever was a time, I’d say next year would be the time to make something happen,” he said.