PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Baker helps take girls golf to State
By Lance Catchings
Sarah Baker has been hitting the links since the fifth grade. This season the freshman helped the Liberty Hill girls golf team make its first appearance at the state tournament. Although she is young she takes her sport very seriously.
“I started getting serious about the sport in the eighth grade,” Baker said. “When I moved to Liberty Hill last September.
“I started going to the same golf coach my brother went to. He got invited to a tournament in California for the U.S.A junior team and that really got me excited and wanting to focus on the sport,” she said.
Entering high school can be filled with plenty of firsts for a freshman and Baker was no different. She knew she wanted to get better out on the course and felt playing for her school was one of the best ways to do that.
“I knew I wanted to be on a team this year and have that experience,” she said.
“I wanted to get involved and grow my game. I have helped my team a little bit this year. I wanted to stay back and watch how they played and support them. My short game is the stronger part of my golf game in my opinion. Chipping and putting are some of my strengths. I enjoy that more than hitting a driver or hitting irons and it is more interaction with the game.”
Some of her best memories from this season include her team advancing through district and the regional tournaments.
“District for us was really big this year,” she said.
“I got to see more teams that I know I will be competing against for the next three years. At the regional I shot in the 80s for the first time and here at State is a very big tournament. This is the biggest tournament I have ever played in. I like being a part of a team because not all of the pressure is on you.”
In her first day at the State Tournament she felt she did not play her best but was determined to keep her head up. The Slick Rock Course at Horseshoe Bay has been known to be a challenge for competitors.
“I struggled a bit the first day, but we did alright overall team wise,” she said.
“I struggled getting off of the tee box and my swing was all kinds of crazy. Putting was alright, but the bunkers were tough. It is a very sandy course especially when you get into bunkers. It is a very fast course and even the fairways are fast. You hit it in the fairway and it could spin anyway. There is a lot of water and the greens are very fast. We are playing Andrews, which has won state seven years in a row so they are a very good team.”
As a freshman playing with older players this season is where she gained a lot of valuable playing experience.
“I have gotten so much more experience under my belt playing this season,” she said.
“The first tournament this year I shot 107 and then I went down to the lower 100s. Then I got in the 90s and at regionals I shot 88 so my game has really progressed over the past several months. It would be amazing if we could win a state title this season. To have that accomplishment and get those varsity jackets and put those patches on would be an honor.”
She loves the bonds she has made with her teammates by playing with them and getting to know them over the course of the season.
“Regionals was an amazing experience because we got to stay in hotels together and grow our friendships more by spending time together,” she said.
“It does take a lot of pressure off your shoulders knowing your teammates are out there playing hard for you as well. To know you can rely on your teammates is big. If we can get in the top five that would be great because there are a lot of good teams in this tournament.”
This is the first Liberty Hill girls golf team to advance to the state tournament so the excitement level is through the roof.
“We made school history this season,” she said.
“The girls golf team had never made it to state or regionals as a team so it’s been a great season for us. It is a big reward for us to be the team to start that for Liberty Hill golf. I can’t wait until next year goes to see if we can make it to regionals and district. We have two teammates graduating, but also we have some players returning to help keep that tradition going.”
No matter the outcome Baker and her teammates have turned in an amazing season and set a new bar for the Liberty Hill golf teams moving forward.