Time of their lives

COLUMBUS – Alyssa Lang paused for a few seconds when the question was posed.

As she and her friends (aka teammates) were enjoying some down time on the eve of the Girls Division II State Golf Tournament, Lang was asked what was better, being out of school for a few days or playing in the tournament.

The question ended up being too tough to answer.

“I think both,” she said. “It’s pretty nice.”

The free-spirited Lakeview Bulldogs are having the time of their lives in Columbus, and the tournament hasn’t even started. After a practice round on the Gray Course at Ohio State University, a trip to the Cheesecake Factory and some down time at the hotel, the Bulldogs were hanging out in front of a campfire in the courtyard of the hotel as they talked about today’s first round.

Oh yeah, they’re playing golf, too. But that’s just icing on the cake (probably cheesecake) for a group that’s enjoying every second of being the first team in Lakeview history to advance to the state tournament.

“I knew we had a good team, but three months ago when we started, I never thought we’d go this far,” said Kaylee Neumeister, the Bulldogs No. 1 player. “My coach was talking at the beginning of the season when we first got our uniforms that our ultimate goal was to make this tournament, and I never thought that would happen. But it’s finally here.”

That coach, Mike Turco, said he saw the amount of talent the Bulldogs possessed and knew there was a chance they could make history. Yet Lakeview’s youth – Lang is the only senior and Ryan Rosenberger is the lone junior – made such a task seem a bit unrealistic. As the season went on, the team kept improving, and their fun-loving attitude had them playing stress-free golf. That continued on Thursday, when the Bulldogs played a practice round on the biggest course they’ve ever seen.

“They played really well today,” Turco said. “They didn’t keep score, but there were a lot of great shots out there. I was very impressed with how they took the course in.”

Lang said the time on the course helped calm some nervousness that had been stewing ever since Lakeview found out it qualified for state, which happened on the last hole at the district tournament as the Bulldogs edged Canton Central Catholic by two strokes.

“We’re all pretty confident about (today) after seeing what it’s like,” Lang said. “It went well. We were all pretty surprised with how well it went. We thought it was going to be a little harder than it was, and then it turned out to be like, ‘Oh, this is it? Really?’ So, we were pretty happy.”

Since the goal of the season was to advance to state, the pressure of placing or winning it doesn’t seem to be affecting the Bulldogs, Turco said. Yet, he added that it wasn’t a fluke for them to make it this far, so he expects a solid showing today (Lakeview tees off at 9:56 a.m. on hole No. 10).

“We have talked about some other goals,” Turco said. “What I said to the girls is, ‘Let’s set another personal goal. Let’s try to come in sixth. If you don’t do that, that’s OK because no matter where we place, we’re one of the top 12 teams in the state.’ And they thought that made a lot of sense. So we’ll see if we can achieve that.”

Turco and the rest of the team agreed that the best way to do that is with a good short game. Turco said the greens are rather tough, with a lot of breaks and difficult reads. After playing it, Neumeister agreed.

“I’ve heard that’s what’s going to save you on this course is your short game,” she said. “I’ve been putting my heart and soul into my short game, and hopefully that will pay off.”

Either way, the Bulldogs are going to enjoy themselves.

“Oh my gosh, as soon as we walked in the hotel, we were screaming, ‘We’re going to state. We’re here!’ ” said Lang, whose final score at the district tournament sent Lakeview to state. “It’s amazing. It’s like a dream come true, honestly.”