After losing one of the program’s all-time greats, Park Hill finds itself in a bit of a rebuild with a last-minute coaching replacement. Tara Garner actually returns to the head coaching spot she never truly left when an offseason replacement ended up taking an administrative job.
Garner and assistant coach Mark Gourley initially retired but were “reactivated” when the new coach needed to back out.
“It’s going to be a building year, but it’s a young team and we have some kids that are going to be competitive by the end of the season,” Garner said. “Last year, we finished first or second in almost every tournament so it’s going to be a different year for us.”
Sam Paulak ended her career as a three-time Class 2 Missouri State Golf Championships qualifier. She rallied last year to earn all-state honors for the first time, finishing third overall and just two shots out of the tie for first place.
In addition to Paulak, Park Hill must replace Class 2 Sectional 4 qualifiers Shea Hoover and Lexi Grego plus Victoria Vo, an honorable mention All-Suburban Conference Gold Division performer. The four seniors were a big part of a successful team that shot the lowest score in program history (342) and finished second in the Gold Division Championships.
Kelbey Emerson, a senior, returns to the lineup after a breakout season. She finished 12th in the conference — one of four in the top 15 for Park Hill — and advanced to sectionals, allowing the Trojans to compete as a team.
Park Hill placed sixth out of eight teams at Sectional 4.
“I’m looking forward to having a new group of girls to bond with and play as a team with,” Emerson said. “Just working to have fun and not take it too serious and just make sure we improve as a team as the season goes on.”
Garner expects junior Tessa Poolman and sophomore Ishika Akula to help fill out the top five, but Park Hill will also have competition for spots at the varsity level.
“We’re looking to see who is going to step up,” Garner said. “We want them to fall in love with the game but we want to be competitive.”