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Henson medals in Bobcat golf opener as MHS girls fall to Waukee

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown freshman Amber Henson chips onto the second green at the American Legion Memorial Golf Course on Tuesday during the Bobcats’ season-opening dual against Waukee. Henson was the meet medalist with a 3-over-par 39 but Marshalltown lost to the Warriors, 192-196.

Typically the first varsity competition for a high school player comes with quite a few nerves that throw off a performance, particularly for a freshman.

Don’t tell that to Marshalltown freshman Amber Henson though, as she made a huge splash in her debut for the Bobcats by taking medalist in the season-opening dual against Waukee with a 3-over 39 at the American Legion Memorial Golf Course.

MHS head golf coach Lucas Johnson said Henson looked every bit the part of a No. 1 golfer on Tuesday against the Warriors.

“To get a 39 out of a freshman in her first meet, you can’t ask for a whole lot more than that,” he said. “It was just fun to watch her, she was definitely dialed in on the greens. Her putting was outstanding, she made a lot of nice up-and-downs from around the greens to save pars. She finished with three-straight pars, and we’ve started having those conversations about how we finish, so for her to put that kind of finishing touch on the round and keep it a round under 40, I am very pleased with the way she played.”

While Henson was the medalist it wasn’t quite enough to put the team over the edge. The Bobcats finished four strokes behind the defending Class 4A state champions, 192-196, but even with the opening loss to a CIML Iowa Conference foe, Johnson said given where he was expecting the team to start this was a great showing.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - Marshalltown freshman Norah Wilson tees off on the third tee box at the American Legion Memorial Golf Course on Tuesday in the Bobcats’ season-opening loss to Waukee.

“I am very pleased with the way our girls played, we haven’t shot under 200 in our first meet of the season since I’ve been coaching, and that includes some senior-heavy squads that had some state-qualifying golfers on them,” he said. “For us to be in this position where we are competing against one of the top squads in the state in Waukee, I’m very pleased with that.”

Sophomore Kyra Feldman was second on the team with a 50, which was just over her nine-hole average a season ago.

Henson was the meet medalist by eight strokes, with Waukee’s Jessey Wyzgowski finishing as the runner-up with a 47. Johnson said Henson had only 13 putts on the front nine of the Legion, and that was partly because of the work she put in during her own time.

“The first thing she told me after the round is she had been working all weekend on her putts inside 10 feet, so that was where the 39 came from,” he said. “That’s the kind of dedication that you like to see out of a freshman, and you know it’s going to rounds like that.”

Sophomore Kyra Feldman was second on the team with a 50, which was just over her nine-hole average a season ago.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

” Kyra tee to green was playing well, her putter let her down,” Johnson said. “She had five three-putts and we talked after the round about how that’s the kind of thing where once she dials in on the green speed she will be just fine. Not something that’s going to be too hard for her to come back from.”

Junior Taylor Naughton was next up with a 53, and that was 14-strokes better than her season-best score from a year ago.

“Her ball striking is much improved over last year and I am really impressed with how much further she’s hitting the ball,” Johnson said. “She’s getting a lot more clubhead speed and her ability to get it around the course is improving. Once she’s able to put together the short game that goes with it, you are going to see those scores go even lower.”

Rounding out the counting scores was another freshman, as Brynn Van Buren shot a 54 in her first meet. Junior Emma Younkin and freshman Norah Wilson were both close behind with both shooting a 55, and Johnson said his girls are in a good position right now.

“The fact that we are throwing out two 55’s shows that there’s a little bit of depth there that we maybe haven’t had in the past,” he said. “Both Norah and Brynn playing together in their first meet ever, there was a little bit of nerves there. They had a couple of holes where they were in some tough positions but they were both able to bounce back with some really nice scores too.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

After Wyzgowski’s 47, Elle Kramer and Megan Seiler had a 48 for Waukee and Emalee Andrews rounded out the counting scores with a 49.

With such a strong debut for the team in general and for Henson specifically, Johnson said there’s a lot of excitement about the rest of the season but as the schedule progresses he looks forward to seeing the way his girls fight through adversity.

“I think the fact that these girls are starting to learn how to score is going to be the next phase of our squad,” he said. “When you are playing well and shooting as well as you can, you’re going to put up a good number. It’s when you’re having a mediocre round, how can you still grind out a score in the high 40’s to keep us in that range of under 200? I think a lot of these scores in the mid to low 50’s can be in the high 40’s with better touch around the greens.”

Marshalltown next hits the links on Monday at Willow Creek Golf Course for the West Des Moines Valley Invite, starting at 10 a.m.

Waukee 192, Marshalltown 196

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

At Marshalltown

American Legion Memorial Golf Course

front nine, par 35

Medalist — Amber Henson, MHS, 39; Runner-up — Jessey Wyzgowski, Waukee, 47.

WAUKEE (192) — Wyzgowski 47, Elle Kramer 48, Megan Seiler 48, Emalee Andrews 49, Mary McLaughlin 49, Meghan Doherty 50.

MHS (196) — Henson 39, Kyra Feldman 50, Taylor Naughton 53, Brynn Van Buren 54, Emma Younkin 55, Norah Wilson 55.