By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – After everything she’s seen and accomplished as a high school golfer, one might expect Rylee George to be super excited about this weekend’s Division I state finals.
As a sophomore in 2012, she was the No. 5 shooter on a Mona Shores girls golf team that won the last of four straight state Division 1 titles.
Last weekend George, now a senior and her team’s No. 1 golfer, won the individual championship at regionals, and the Sailors captured the team title.
That means she has a legitimate shot at an individual state championship Saturday, and the Sailors have a real chance to claim a fourth state team title in five years.
But George is taking it all in stride.
While she says it was fun being part of the state championship team two years ago, she doesn’t feel any particular pressure to bring a trophy back to her school, individually or as captain of her team.
George said she and her teammates just plan to have fun, do the best they can, and let the chips fall where they may.
Mona Shores will compete in the Division 1 state finals Friday and Saturday at Forest Acres West Golf Course at Michigan State University. The golfers will play an 18-hole round each day.
“We just kind of go out, set our own goals and see what we’re capable of,” George said. “We’re not worried about any expectations. We’ve just all been working really hard to get better, and it’s paying off.”
Ironically, Mona Shores girls golf Coach Scott Volkmann said it’s that calm attitude that’s helped George become one of the best high school golfers in the state.
“She’s very mild mannered, which helps,” Volkmann said. “In golf you can’t let momentum affect you as much as in other sports. You can’t have too many ups and downs. Rylee does a very good job of that. She stays in the present and doesn’t dwell on shots that go well or shots that don’t go so well.”
A lot of George’s shots went very well last weekend at the Division 1 regional tournament at Lincoln Golf Course.
George was the individual medalist with a score of 81, which was eight shots better than the runner-up golfer. And she managed to win in weather conditions that were less than ideal.
“She had a great day,” Volkmann said. “It was really windy and the greens were fast, which made it pretty challenging. On a calm day she would have shot a 75 or 76. She proved once again why she’s our No. 1, our senior captain and our leader.”
The regional tournament was also a good measure of how much George has improved this season. She shot a 93 at Lincoln in late August at the Reeths-Puffer Invitational, in better weather conditions.
A twelve-stroke improvement over a two-month season is pretty impressive. Volkmann said that’s the result of a lot of dedication and hard work.
“She wants to be coached, she wants to learn,” Volkmann said. “I don’t know very may players who are so receptive to advice and ask so many questions.
“She’s usually the last player to leave practice. When we’re all done and wrapping up she’s always out there chipping and putting and hitting balls. That’s what you want from a captain.”
“I think I’ve come a long way in skills and my mental approach,” said George, who started playing golf as a youngster with her father and grandfather, and said the sport “grew on me” after her dad started entering her in junior tournaments.
George is not the only Sailor golfer who has made big strides this year.
The team had to rebuild last season following the graduation of the four senior golfers who won the four straight state titles. George was the only one returning to the regular lineup.
The Sailors still managed to finish second at regionals and 13th in the state.
But their improvement this year has been significant. They once again rolled to an O-K Black Conference title, easily captured the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Meet championship, and easily outdistanced second place Forest Hills Central by 25 shots at last weekend’s regional.
Mona Shores is current ranked No. 5 in the state in Division 1.
The other top finishers for Mona Shores at the regional were Sami Pyman (91), Kendall McKinley (94), Andrea Majeski (95) and Darian Smith (102).
“We haven’t played great as a team – good, but not great,” Volkmann said. “I think the state rankings are spot on where they have us. The four teams ranked ahead of us are really good. We will have to play very well to contend.”