Lauren Stephenson likes to win, and this spring is no exception to that commitment.
As the first girl to play on the Lexington boys golf squad, Stephenson is angling to add to the Wildcats’ state title count.
Stephenson, a junior, has been key to four Class 4A titles with the Wildcats girls team, most recently in fall 2013.
“I really wanted to be on the boys team, because I thought it would be more competition and stronger competition for me,” she said.
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Because of Lexington’s split with River Bluff, assistant athletics director Brandon Smith, coach of both Wildcats golf teams, believed the Wildcats girls’ squad might be diminished in numbers. So, this season, he exercised his option to open the boys team to female competitors.
“It’s the first year we’ve done it at Lexington,” he said. “I gave the opportunity to more of my girls, and Lauren just happened to be the only one who came out.”
Despite her bona fides as an All-State girls golfer – having placed third in the state in 2013 – Stephenson had to try out for the boys team.
“I was really nervous that I wasn’t going to make the team. After the tryout, it turned out I was the lowest score, and I was really surprised,” she said.
She made the six-player squad and vowed to improve.
Smith was confident Stephenson’s addition to the team would be for the better.
“I certainly thought that she could help us be better,” he said. “I wanted this team to have a chance to succeed at the highest level, and she put us over the top.”
Aside from a little extra work on travel logistics, Stephenson’s addition on the team has gone smoothly.
“She really has fit in very well with the guys,” Smith said. “As far as being on the team with the guys, she has done very well. They play at the same course, they know each other pretty well. She had been practicing and playing with them, and the guys have accepted her as one of the team.”
Stephenson said she was concerned, initially, about taking a boy’s spot on the team.
“I was worried that they would be upset, but they were very welcoming, and they encouraged me to practice and get better,” she said.
At the Wildcats’ first tournament, Stephenson was the Wildcats’ No. 4 golfer. In the May 5 region tournament, Stephenson shot a 72-72 to tie for second with teammate Nicholas Beiers.
“At the beginning of the year, there was a little bit of concern about how she would do from further distances,” senior teammate Zach Herold said. “I thought she would add to our chances of winning.”
Although their Region 5-4A championship was a team effort, Herold said, “It’s been perfect. I don’t think we could have done what we have this season without her.”
On Wednesday, the Wildcats compete in the Class 4A Lower State meet at Aiken’s Woodside Plantation. Then, they plan to contend for the state title at Furman on May 19-20.
“We’ve got six guys on our team, and they’re all doing their part to help us win,” Smith said. “Well, five guys, and one girl.”