COVINGTON, Ga. — Golf coaches Catherine Davis and Rick Rasmussen are ready to drive into a new season with a fresh team featuring a rising young star.
The girls’ golf team includes four sophomores. Most are novice players but one has chops that could take her to college and beyond.
That player would be Ally Black, a sophomore who's been playing golf since middle school.
Having found love for the game through her grandfather, who often helps out with the team, she burst onto the season last year as a freshman with a state tournament appearance and a Newton Cup title to her credit.
“My grandfather introduced me to golf in seventh grade," Black said. "At first, I wasn’t really into it because I was playing soccer at the time. But I kind of fell into it the more I learned about the sport and all of the scholarships for it that get left behind because girls aren’t really interested in golf.”
Now in her second year of playing with Newton, Black comes in with momentum. In addition to achieving low medalist in last year's Newton Cup, she also finished top 30 at the Class AAAAAAA state tournament in 2018, and has increased her presence in Atlanta and Georgia State youth events. She is the only player on either the girls or boys team to advance to these levels.
While Black’s interest in golf was sparked by her grandfather, her skills have been developed through the coaching and mentoring of boys’ coach Coach Rick Rasmussen.
“Ras has been there for me since day one," she said. "He went to regionals with me last year and was really there for me. The first day he even rode on the kart with me to give me advice and insight. He really looks out for me and wants to see me do better.”
Black said she's excited to build upon her freshman year success with plans to further her career into college. She's also open to shaping her game to pursue professional opportunities in the further future as well.
While the other female golfers are less experienced, their first-year coach Cindy Davis is excited to work and grow with them.
“This season I would like for us to place at the regional level,” Davis said. “This year I have four sophomores, and if they’re dedicated and driven, I see us competing at the state level as a team by senior year.”
Davis plans on encouraging the girls to practice year round and work on areas of weakness to get the team to meet their goals, while also using Black as a source of inspiration and leadership.
“What I love about Ally is that she’s a team player. She’s always offering suggestions and coaching her peers which depicts her leadership,” Davis said.
Rasmussen agreed about Black’s temperament.
“Ally is a leader and a definite team player,” Rasmussen said. “She’s never smug or never looks down on the others because of her success. Biggest thing for Ally is she has to compete and not lose focus because of the fact that she is college prospect.”
As for the boys team, Rasmussen is optimistic, despite having just a few players who are returning to the game.
Rasmussen says that his team is full of potential but is simply “inexperienced”. They too plan on working on learning the game and perfecting techniques and getting more wins and higher level competitions under their belt.
Senior Will Sullivan is the one expected to pace a somewhat green boys squad.
“Will is our best boy, and is a player who can break 50,” Rasmussen said. “We’re excited about the upcoming season. We have a good mix of returning and brand-new-to-golf players. Most of our returners are still very new to golf, but Ally Black, of course, is our star and Will is our top returning male. We’ll play other teams and work to get better as the season progresses.”
Rasmussen said he wants his boys squad to focus on having fun while learning to compete and focus on perfecting technique. That ability to enjoy the game is actually something Sullivan said has helped him improve over the years.
“The one thing I had to learn was to relax,” he said. “In ninth grade I took the game so seriously. I’d get mad when I had bad shots and would beat myself up over it. I only started seeing results when I relaxed and allowed myself to focus in on what I was doing and actually make the game fun.”
Newton opens the season Thursday against Rockdale at The Oaks, and will follow the season opener with matches against Heritage (Tuesday) at Honey Creek in Conyers and against Salem (Thursday) at The Oaks.
“We’re looking forward to the season,” Rasmussen said. “I’m looking forward to working along side coach Davis as well.”