Winning championships has become habit for Grove City golfer

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Throughout the past three years, Kayla Finney has been a consistent presence for the Grove City College women's golf team.

The results speak for themselves — two Presidents' Athletic Conference championships.

As she begins her senior season, the third-year captain hopes to remain a strong presence on the links.

“I want to finish my college career on a good note. I want to excel in my grades and to be able to lead my team for my last year is a big part of it,” said Finney, a Mars Area High School graduate.

“Repeating as PAC champs would be great. It's definitely motivating us for this year. Our theme is ‘Press On,' and that's about forgetting what is in the past and moving on toward a new goal.”

It's difficult for the Wolverines to forget their championship, though. They overcame a 15-stroke deficit to capture the title.

“Because of the position we were in, we were still having hope. We knew if we did perform well and the other teams didn't necessarily perform well, we had a chance. The top three teams were close,” she said.

“We knew we had that big deficit, but there wasn't much stress about it. We just went and did the best we could. Golf is unique because you're competing as individuals. You practice together, but in the tournaments, you're on your own.

“We needed every person to pull their weight and everyone did that.”

The PAC golf championship has a unique format.

The team scores from the two-round Fall Invitational carry over into the two-round spring outing.

So, all four rounds count toward the team championship.

After the fall, Washington & Jefferson was in the lead with a 717, and Grove City was 15 strokes behind at 732.

The Wolverines combined to shoot a 758 in the spring for a 1,490 total, and W&J carded a 780 for a 1,497.

“It was amazing. After the first day in the spring, we made some of the strokes up,” she said.

“We just kept our focus and our cool. We just wanted to do the best we could so we weren't disappointed. It was exciting that we still had a chance. It was a great moment when we saw that we won. It was a moment of true rejoicing.”

Grove City coach Melissa Lamie was thrilled to see her team come back for the victory.

“I think it had a lot to do with the character of the kids on the team more than anything,” Lamie said. “We didn't turn into top-notch golfers overnight. We just stayed with it and believed in each other. It was a surprise in some ways because it was such a big gap, but not surprising to know they could do what they did.”

The Wolverines return four of their top five golfers from last year.

“We have all these high expectations of our team, but we're focusing on working as a team and not making it too stressful,” Finney said.

“We want to live up to our expectations, but not let them consume our outlook.”

Despite a nagging shoulder injury she's had for the past four years, Finney hopes to wrap up her collegiate career on a high note.

“After my senior year of high school, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to play because of my shoulder. But, they needed golfers and my brother golfed for the men's team, so they asked me to come out and try,” she said.

“I am very, very glad I was asked to play my freshman year. Each year has been different, but they've been great. This summer, my goal was to strengthen my shoulder and get out there and play every week no matter the pain level.

“I am feeling stronger. I feel prepared for the fall this year. I am playing better.”

Lamie wants Finney to enjoy a strong season.

“I feel like she deserves it,” she said. “She has been kind of the only staple of our program for four years. She was our tie to the last championship (2011) group that was with me for four years, and she helped make the transition with an entirely new group around her.

“Hopefully, it'll all fall into place again this year.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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