Gilbert continues rapid rise in girls’ golf
Dru Nix planted a seed in a modest field at Gilbert High three years ago. The seed was the site of the first-ever practice for the girls’ golf team. By 2018, it has sprouted into a girls’ golf program which has quickly grown beyond Nix’s modest expectations.
The Lady Indians have ranked as high as third in the SC rankings and just completed a 12-0 regular season. They just finished runner-up in the Class 3A Lower State tournament held at Cheraw State Park Monday. Gilbert finished second to defending state champion Oceanside Collegiate and beat out Bishop England by one stroke for runner-up.
“This is happening a lot faster than I thought,” Nix said during practice at the Ponderosa Country Club in Batesburg-Leesville. “I really think we’re a year or two ahead of schedule, but we’re here. So let’s embrace it and see what we can do.”
This season the Lady Indians posted victories in tri-matches over Chapin, River Bluff, Cardinal Newman, A.C. Flora, North Augusta and Dutch Fork. They held their own in tournaments against defending state champions Lexington and Oceanside Collegiate at the Blue Jacket Invitational, placing third, and with other Class 5A schools at the Smith Memorial.
Making Gilbert’s run of success noteworthy is the team’s youth. After sophomore Anna Moss, the Lady Indians are mostly freshmen and even one eighth grader (Edie Raine Hardee).
“Each year, we’ve added a couple of players that have made us a stronger team,” Nix said. “This year is no exception. Last year, we added Meredith Price and both Moss sisters (Ally and Anna). And then this year, we added Alexis Hodge and Kennedy Gooding. We continue to improve.”
Gooding’s play has taken Gilbert to the next level. In her first season, she has led the Lady Indians with career lows and finished in second place at the prestigious Women’s S.C. Golf Association’s High School Invitational at Cat Island in Beaufort.
Playing on a familiar course and getting pushed by competing against the likes of Lexington’s Issabela Rawl and Invitational winner Emily Dunlap of Mauldin was a confidence boost for Gooding.
“I was definitely nervous at the beginning with a new team,” she said. “After the first tournament, I just felt so comfortable with them and I did very well at our first tournament.”
“That was a top shelf tournament and Kennedy is a top shelf player,” Nix said. “She has set the tone. She’s the example that we needed. We needed that top shelf player to show us how to practice. To show us how shots can be hit. It’s a real joy to have on the team.”
Kennedy had the third-lowest overall score at the Lower State tournament with a personal best even par 71. Teammates Ally Moss (80) and Edie Raine Hardee (101) also had career low scores.
Gray Collegiate’s Jensen Castle had the lowest individual score at 3-under-68. She and sister Jalen will join Gilbert at the Class 3A state tournament taking place Monday and Tuesday at Carolina Springs in Fountain Inn.
Gilbert will look to improve on last year’s 9th place showing. It would be another “fruit” produced from a rapidly developing of a Gilbert program which is not slowing down.
“She has told me that they started from the very bottom where none of the girls had clubs and that’s really amazing to me that it’s gotten this far,” Gooding said. “We have a pretty stable team this year and I just see a bright future for all of us.”