Claire Dolan of Seneca Valley, who enters her third Maryland scholastic state golf tournament today at the University of Maryland, is favored to capture individual honors among the girls, but she is more concerned that her team win the overall title.
Dolan, who took first place in the District II tournament by edging Rockville's Hap Peden on a tie breaker hole, will not compete individually against any of the boys in the two-day event that concludes Friday.
For the first time this year, individual boy and girl champions will be declared. However, Dolan's and all girls' scores will count in team competition.
"It doesn't really bother me that I have to compete separately," said Dolan, "because my main concern is a team victory."
Seneca Coach Bob Turnbull would rather see Claire "tee it up with the boys" than compete individually only against other girls. "I'm going to ask that Claire compete against the guys," says Turnbull. "Although our main goal is a team win, Claire always plays better when she has more competition.
"I have a young lady who can shoot with the guys," says Turnbull. "Claire's been on top of her game lately, and as far as I'm concerned, if she plays well enough to win it all, they should take the girls' and guys' trophy and give them both to her."
Dolan's district score (72) was 13 strokes better than the next closest girls score (Mary Thomas, 85), and more than 21 strokes lower than the average among the other seven girls district scores.
But state golf Chairman Bob Burkhart says it would be unfair to make an exception for Dolan and count her scores among the individual boys scores. The reason for the segregated competition is to encourage more girls to play golf in the county.
As a sophomore, Dolan tied for 10th in the state tournament, and last year took third behind Wootton's Mike Watson and John Mackey. This fall her stroke average is lower than last year's -- 74 compared to a 76.5 -- and she is playing a more consistent game.
"Her game has changed anywhere from eight to 10 strokes since she first played for me (during her sophomore year)," says Turnbull. "She's also more conscientious of the game."
Having played since the age 11, Dolan plans to continue the sport through college. "I have no doubt that Claire will go to a college with a good women's golf team and make the team. Once she makes up her mind about something, she follows through with it," said Turnbull.
Dolan is not certain where she would like to go to college, but she says, "I'm not going to base my decision on golf alone. I want a school with good academics as well as a good golf program."
Professional golf is not beyond Dolan's consideration. "There are a lot of 'ifs' involved (in planning a career in professional golf)," said Dolan. "I'm going to have to wait to see how good I really am when I play in college."
Dolan feels her strength in golf is her short game (hitting on the green). "She's not a big girl, and she can't hit the ball as far as some of the guys," says Turnbull, "but she's very consistent in reading the green and using the short irons and putters."
Eight girls will compete in the state tournament. Besides Dolan, Lynn Hunter (Centennial), Vicky Isaac (Franklin), Mary Thomas (Leonardtown), Rose Turner (Wicomico), Martha Gish (Severna Park), Amy Longson (Rockville), and Lisa Skaggs (Frederick) will compete.
The strongest competition for Seneca Valley will probably come from Prince George's champion Bowie, Surrattsville, Westminster, Severna Park, Wootton and Montgomery champion Whitman.