By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Traveling to the Goodrich Country Club to battle the Brandon Blackhawks on September 30, sixth-year head coach Gretchen Gabler comprised her varsity lineup entirely of freshmen, something she had not done this season.
Exemplifying yet another reason to be optimistic about the 2024 class, the Wildcats defeated Brandon by 31 strokes, 190-221.
Keira Bills, one of the Oakland Activities Association’s (OAA) best young players, led the way with a 41, followed by Ellie Gieselman’s 47, Lexie Yankee’s 49 and Gabi Wait’s 53.
“Brandon is a great program and I really encourage anyone in Brandon schools to steer their daughter toward golfing with them,” Gabler complimentary said. “It was terrible weather; it was very wet. Watching those six girls play, I am optimistic about the next three seasons with them.
“(Playing all freshmen) gave the young players an opportunity to shine, having been behind three seniors and a junior on varsity and they seized that opportunity.”
The next day, Oxford was scheduled to host the Troy Athens at the Metamora Golf & Country Club, but Mother Nature had other ideas, as the match was rained out.
Despite this, the team honored their six seniors, Kayla Acton, Avery Carty, Kate Dietiker, Stephanie Gilling, Janelle Grech and Eryn Petriko.
“These six girls are driven to make an impact on the world,” Gabler said. “It was really a fun time. Mr. Throne (Superintendent of Oxford Community Schools) made it, so, it was nice he could take time out and celebrate with us.”
Gabler’s program rounded out their regular season with a home match against the Avondale Yellow Jackets on Monday and will compete in Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Regional play on today (Oct. 7) at Twin Lakes Golf Club.
Classified as Region 5 and hosted by the Rochester Adams Highlanders, the Wildcats will square off against 11 other schools, including the Clarkston Wolves and Lake Orion Dragons.
The top-three teams and the top-three individuals not on qualifying teams will advance to the Lower Peninsula Finals at the Forest Akers East Course on the campus of Michigan State University on Friday, October 16.
Oxford has never qualified for the state finals as a team.
“We have a tough, tough regional,” Gabler said. “But we’ve been working toward playing well in that all season and the girls are up for the challenge.”
Performing well in regionals is undoubtedly the program’s focus right now, but the Wildcats also earned some recognition for their integrity on Oct. 2, receiving the Second Annual OAA White Sportsmanship Award.
After New Baltimore Anchor Bay and Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse were widely accused of cheating in a 2018 regional, also held at Twin Lakes, Gabler took it upon herself to create an award honoring playing the game the right way.
The Sportsmanship Award is voted on by the OAA White Division members, and Oxford’s competition thought highly of the program, with three of them giving the Wildcats a first-place vote, and one each for second and third-place.
“I personally felt we needed to recognize the good that can happen in golf,” Gabler said. “We stress knowing the rules and applying them fairly, the etiquette of golf. Those are the core values and Oxford girls’ golf; this is a very special award.”