MILLINGTON, MI – Emily Martin can only imagine what it’s like to tee off on a 71-yard par 3 or walk up to a dogleg instead of maneuvering a drive around it.
But if the Millington senior wants to play high school golf, she has no choice.
For the past two seasons, Martin has been forced to play longer courses as a member of the boys golf team because her school does not field a girls golf team.
“The big disadvantage is that I play from the same tees as the guys do,” Martin said. “I don’t play from the women’s tees. It makes it a lot longer. You wonder how you would do playing against other girls playing from the women’s tees.
“I guess I’ll find out next year.”
Martin, a senior, will golf next season for the Alma College women’s team, providing an unfamiliar situation for the 18-year-old member of the Millington boys team.
“There are advantages and disadvantages to golfing on the boys team,” Martin said. “The advantage is that you tend to get noticed, especially if you golf well. College coaches and other coaches notice if you’re able to compete with the boys.”
Martin’s 9-hole average as a junior was 52, a number she lowered to 48 this season for a Millington team that is ranked sixth in the state in Division 3 and claimed the Tri-Valley Conference West title Wednesday at Willow Springs Golf Course.
She shot a 48 on the front nine and 40 on the back nine Wednesday but did not score for the Cardinals. Teams count the top four scores.
Playing from the men’s tees at Willow Springs Wednesday added more than 1,100 extra yards off the tee over the course of Martin’s day.
“It’s the yardage, but it’s more than that,” Millington coach Mike Moore said. “Courses are set up so that some of the hazards that come into play from the men’s tees do not come into play from the women’s tees.
“Because she’s playing boys golf, she tees off from the same tees (as her male teammates), faces the same hazards. It’s a big disadvantage for her, but the advantage is that it forces her to develop parts of her game that maybe the girls playing in the fall don’t have to develop.”
And that creates interest from college coaches.
“She plays volleyball, but there she was signing a letter of intent to play college golf,” Moore said. “I asked her if she ever saw herself signing to play golf in college. ‘No way.’”
Martin, who played volleyball in the fall, didn’t golf competitively until her junior season.
“She came out last year, and I placed her as our No. 6 golfer, but then she started beating some of our guys and some of the guys on the other team,” Moore said. “So she moved up to No. 5 and then No. 4.
“The fact that she’s improved this year and is now our No. 6 says more about the strength of our team than it does about her. She’s 230 (yards) off the tee. The guys are very accepting of her, but there’s also that competitiveness that she brings. They don’t want to finish behind her. She doesn’t want to finish behind them.”
If Martin was initially uncomfortable joining the boys team, it didn’t last long.
“At first I was worried about fitting in or how they would treat me,” Martin said. “But it turned out really great. They were very accepting of me. They would help me. They would cheer for me when I hit a good shot. Now, I don’t even think about it.”
Even though she hasn’t scored for Millington this season, Martin did come away with medalist honors with teammate Kaden Wisenbach in the Warmer Memorial Friday at Vassar Golf and Country Club. They shot a 72.
“It was a fun event, a two-person scramble,” Moore said. “Kaden and Emily were a perfect team where they could complement each other’s strengths. That was big for Emily too. I know she gets discouraged, even though she’s golfing well.
“It’s tough for any golfer when you’re not scoring. And again, it’s not her fault. It’s just the depth of our team this year.”
That should not be a problem for Martin next year, when the distances shrink a bit in women’s college golf competition.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Martin said. “I don’t golf with other girls, so it’s going to be different.
“But I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
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