(Will Fehlinger photo)
Gracie Graf will be entering her fourth year of varsity competition for Franklin County High School and is projected as the top player.
(Will Fehlinger photo) Gracie Graf will be entering her fourth year of varsity competition for Franklin County High School and is projected as the top player.

It's not always easy to step into a position previously filled by someone with a proven track record of success.

When the 2020 girls golf campaign begins on Monday, Aug. 3, at the Richmond Elks Lodge & Country Club, Kendyl Brack will get a firsthand look at the challenges of doing so.

Just two years removed from Franklin County High School, Brack moves into the head coaching position held for many years by Marisa Mears.

“Talk about big shoes to fill!” said Brack, who played for Mears from her seventh-grade year through a high school career littered with conference and sectional titles.

“She is the type of coach that everyone hopes to play for,” she continued. “She knew when and how to push me, console me, and get my attitude back in check. Being her assistant for the past two years has given me the confidence to take on this position.”

The Lady Wildcats, according to Brack, are in the same boat as the rest of the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference when it comes to a mix of experienced and players and newcomers.

“I feel most of us are going into this year on a pretty level playing field,” the first-year coach added. “Most teams, us included, lost one or two key players, but have freshman that will be big contributors to the team.”

Senior Gracie Graf appears to be in the pole position for the team's top spot and brings the most varsity experience (three previous years) to the table.

Classmate Camryn Brewer, with two varsity years in her pocket, looks to have the second position locked down.

“Gracie brings experience, leadership, and knowledge of the game to the team, while Camryn brings a great attitude, work ethic, and consistency to each practice,” Brack remarked. “I am looking forward to Gracie and Camryn leading the team this year.”

The team is already feeling a residual effect from the initial COVID-19 outbreak in the spring. The coach revealed that the junior high golf team would have possibly provided a few more players, but valuable learning experience was wiped out.

As it stands, Brack has seven players to work with this fall, though that number is typical for area high school programs.

“Seven players allow for more individualized coaching for newer team members,” said the coach. “We have four freshmen this year, including Nicole Mears, Lillie Graf, Crystal Calihan and Jacy Grimmeissen, who all have at least some golf experience.”

The last piece to the puzzle is returning junior Kelsie Brackney; “Kelsie puts in a lot of time and work and she has shown great improvement in her first two years. I look forward to watching her grow as a player.”

The players will get a baptism by fire, as there are no fewer than four 18-hole tournaments and three 9-hole dual (or triangular) meets scheduled before Aug. 18.

“I know from experience that this can be a grueling two weeks for the girls,” stated Brack. “With the start of a new season, nerves always play a factor. I know the potential of this team and want them to see it as well. Getting off to a good start will be a confidence booster, especially in my three, four and five spots.”

Greensburg is the defending EIAC champion, the Lady Pirates returning conference runner-up Megan Reisman but losing all-conference performers Kennedy McCullough and Ellie Acra to graduation. Brewer and Graf placed fourth and fifth, respectively, at last fall's EIAC meet. Maggie Brack, a Wildcat senior last year, was sixth.

In the top spot was Batesville's Emma Weiler, a position not unfamiliar to her. The Lady Bulldog sophomore is a budding superstar who qualified for the state finals as a freshman and was named to the All-State team.

All teams, though, are doing their best to deal with the ongoing health emergency that seems to have picked up steam of late.

“There is probably no sport that can socially distance as easily as we can,” said Brack. “The health and safety of all players is my top priority. We have protocols in place to ensure this.

“When practices are over, the girls must leave the course and parking lot immediately,” she added. “When I played, this was a time we could talk about how we played, our frustrations, and maybe even where we were going to eat! This was a relaxed, bonding time that I appreciate now more than ever.”

The fledgling coach is just happy for the opportunity to flash her competitive nature again.

“I have continued golfing since high school, and I am excited to be back on the competitive side, as a coach,” she said. “I am really looking forward to the upcoming season. Winning our conference and sectional are our ultimate goals. Even though we are young, it is not out of the question.”