MYRTLE BEACH — Carolina Forest High girls golf coach Vil Caroso has one more tournament remaining this season to determine his team’s award winners.
He has to decide which players have earned the team MVP, most improved player award, and Panther award for spirit and leadership.
He’s grateful he doesn’t have to choose the team’s academic award winner, which school administrators select based on GPA.
That would be a tough one.
As impressive as the Panthers are on the golf course – they finished fourth Monday in the Class AAAA Lower State tournament at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club’s Southcreek Course to qualify for the AAAA state tournament – they’re much more impressive in the classroom.
And the starting five are more proud of their grade-point averages than their stroke averages. They represent the ideal of the student athlete.
“The school wants [players to have] a ‘C’ average, and I never have to worry about that,” Caroso said. “When you see their laptop computers with them on the away matches, you know they’re hard workers. They’re very diligent.”
Lia Farrar is not only the lone senior on the team, she’s actually the only student enrolled at Carolina Forest High. The players’ academic pursuits have taken them to five different schools.
Farrar is in the top 10 academically in a class of approximately 475 and plans to select a college major in the medical field. “I love to play golf, but academics definitely come first,” Farrar said.
Samantha Schoener is a junior at Early College High School at Horry-Georgetown Technical College. She carries a 4.38 GPA, is on pace to graduate next year with the equivalent of a college associate’s degree and wants to major in sports medicine.
Elizabeth Snyder-Mounts is a sophomore at the Academy of Arts & Sciences and earned the team academic award last season with a GPA above 5.0.
Jamie Karl is a freshman at the Scholar Academy at Coastal Carolina and could complete high school classes and begin taking college classes by the second semester next school year.
Sami Spencer is a seventh-grader at Ocean Bay Middle School who is an A/B student and takes honors English and honors math classes.
“It’s a good thing to have a bunch of good scholarly kids,” said Farrar, who is in her fourth year on varsity and has been selected to participate in S.C.’s North-South All-Star Golf Matches in Chapin. “No one ever has to sit out matches for grades, so it’s helpful. When you go to the awards banquet usually golf will have the best GPA score.”
The team score at Myrtle Beach National on Monday wasn’t bad, either. Carolina Forest’s 54-over-par 342 was its best total of the season, including extrapolating individual scores in nine-hole matches to 18-hole scores.
Farrar shot an 10-over 82, Schoener an 86, Snyder-Mounts a career-best 86 and Spencer an 88. The team score didn’t include Karl’s team-best 81 Monday that couldn’t be counted because she was disqualified for taking an improper drop from a water hazard. “We brought our ‘A’ game today,” Karl said.
Lexington won the tournament by 12 strokes over Bluffton with a 12-over 300, and Lexington’s Sydney Legacy was the medalist by a stroke over South Aiken’s Taylor Dodson with a 4-under 68. Conway individuals Maggie Harper and Emily McClellan both shot 105.
The Panthers will compete in the AAAA state championship tournament next Monday and Tuesday in Lexington, and will stay overnight in a hotel, where their GPAs will still be as important if not more important than their opening-round scores. To a player, they’ll likely have their schoolwork with them.
“If I got behind I would die,” Snyder-Mounts said. “My GPA is too important.”
The team hasn’t had a problem bonding despite the multitude of schools they attend. “We’re like a family,” Snyder-Mounts said. “We all love each other.”
Following the season they plan to organize golf rounds and movie nights together. “We try to come together as a team on the golf course but also be a team outside of it,” Schoener said. “We’re all here for each other.”
The teammates push each other to improve on the golf course and in the classroom, and sometimes exercise their brains as they’re practicing. “I remember one day at practice we were talking about how bad our putting was, and we’re like, ‘How do you say my putting is horrible in Spanish?’ ” Snyder-Mounts said. “We were on that for like 15 minutes.”
Their higher education choices will probably all be guided by academics and it’s possible none of the five will tee it up collegiately. “Originally I was all gung-ho about playing golf in college, but I realized college is going to be very much an academic experience for me,” Schoener said. “I’m always into knowing my grades and keeping up with my schoolwork, and that’s really who I am so I’m going to really focus on school.”
So who deserves to receive the team academic award? The players have a solution.
“I think we all deserve a piece of it,” said Karl, whose sister is a freshman at Wofford College. “Keeping up straight ‘A’s’ while playing golf and having practice till like 6:30 every night, it’s hard but we all do it.”
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.