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Signs point to state for Lincoln girls

August 11, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

STANFORD - The Lincoln County girls sent a message last week that they're serious about making it to the state golf tournament. In fact, they left it all over their coach's yard.

Jackie Pence emerged from her home on the first day of school last week to find her lawn littered with signs and streamers and all sorts of other things, all thanks to her players.

"I decided we needed to get ourselves fired up," junior Kandis Noe said. "And she loved it."

It was a not-so-serious method for the Patriots to convey their serious message, and it was a welcome sight to their coach.

"It was just one more thing to show that they're together as a group," Pence said.

The Lincoln girls are also on the same page when it comes to what they want from this season, which they kicked off Tuesday with a 50-stroke victory over North Laurel at Dix River Country Club.

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"We're going to state," Noe said matter-of-factly.

There is reason for these girls to aim high. Lincoln has the deepest roster of any area girls team, and its most experienced players have been together for four years.

"It's about time for them to drop their scores a little," Pence said.

That's already happening, thanks in large part to the time the team's top players put in this summer. Noe, the team's top returning player and its top scorer Tuesday with a 41, played in nine tournaments on the statewide Pepsi Junior Tour, earning a spot in last month's season-ending tour championship,. Sisters Kristina and Lindsey Rankin played in "four or five" events each on a southeastern Kentucky junior tour.

When they weren't playing in tournaments or taking lessons from Danville teaching pro Bruce Brown, many of the girls made time for practice rounds at Dix River.

"We've been calling each other and carpooling back and forth to the golf course, trying to make sure we practiced every day," Kristina Rankin said.

"It makes you feel so good when you see yourself improving," Noe added. "I've come down 10 strokes since the beginning of the year."

Patriots finished fifth at last year's regional tourney

She's not alone. Noe noted that Lincoln finished fifth in last year's 8th Region Tournament, with all five of its players shooting over 100.

"Now we've got two of us already shooting in the 80s, and a lot of us are trying to get there," she said.

Lincoln didn't lose any seniors last season. Kristina Rankin is the only senior this year, and Noe and Logan Atwood are the only juniors. Even Lindsey Rankin, a freshman, already has plenty of experience.

"We have more confidence, more faith in ourselves," Lindsey Rankin said.

And they're all starting to get an idea of what it will take to be one of the top two teams at next month's regional and secure a state berth.

"We have to have more consistency," Lindsey Rankin said.

They're also making sure they have a little fun along the way, as they did last week when they left their mark at their coach's home.

Their signs said things like, "We're Going To State." There were streamers in the trees, messages on Pence's car window, even golf magazines lying about on the lawn. And it was all done unbeknownst to Pence, who was inside at the time.

"She was walking around inside. We could see her through the windows," Lindsey Rankin said.

Pence found the girls' handiwork the next morning, when she wasn't in the best of moods as she faced the start of the school year.

"When I saw that, it put a smile on my face," she said. "It really turned my whole day around."

Pence said she's getting a great deal of enjoyment out of watching her players turn the corner.

"It's a fun feeling," she said, "and this is just a fun bunch."

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