Ray Corbett was coaching the Grandview Heights High School junior varsity boys golf team two years ago when he noticed a couple of players who stood out from the rest.
The players were two girls who showed enthusiasm for the game and a willingness to learn. That prompted Corbett to start thinking about providing a better environment for the girls to compete, and he asked Sophia Koester and Carolyn LaPrete to help build a team.
Now in its second season, the girls golf program has helped level the playing field for Koester and LaPrete. Both are seniors.
"I know I was super-exited when coach told us about (starting a girls program)," LaPrete said. "You get to play with girls that are about your skill level.
"Everybody is about the same whereas with the boys we had to play j.v. because we couldn't hit as far as the varsity players. Most of the (j.v. players) weren't as good because they were freshmen and a lot had not played the game before and were new to the sport. It's good to play with kids of your same experience."
Koester echoed those sentiments.
"It's nice to play on the forward tees and it's much more competitive playing with girls," she said. "I was happy to have more fair competition and a team you feel more comfortable with having all girls."
The Bobcats started 1-6, but evened their mark at 7-7 after defeating London 209-241 on Sept. 7 in MSL-Ohio Division play at London Country Club.
"When I was coaching the j.v. boys team, the two girls were the most dedicated kids that I had," said Corbett, who also leads the boys basketball program. "I told them that if they could get a couple more kids to come out that we could have a girls team, and they found them.
"(Koester and LaPrete) are natural athletes, and they just like to compete. I noticed that they take things seriously on the course. They want to learn. They look you in the eye and listen to what you're saying. They are as competitive as any kids I have been around, and I like being around kids that compete."
The Bobcats fell behind early in the MSL-Ohio by tying Wellington for fourth in the league's preseason tournament Aug. 8 at Airport. Despite being 5-2 in league duals, they are 5-5-1 overall in the league.
Koester (79) was runner-up to Worthington Christian's Rena So (78) in the preseason tournament, and LaPrete (103) and sophomore Maura DiCuccio (110) also played.
The MSL-Ohio postseason tournament is Saturday, Sept. 16, at Turnberry.
Koester has been medalist seven times in dual events, averaging 43.4 per nine holes.
"I think there is a little more pressure right now (as a senior), especially in tournaments because I know I want to play in college," said Koester, who has a 3.97 GPA and plans to major in marketing and advertising. "I know I want to do well if I want to get noticed. I also think I take (the game) more seriously with a second-year program, just having more familiarity with it."
LaPrete, who has a 47.9 average in nine-hole events, said she has shown marked improvement since her freshman season.
"I now hit the ball straighter and a lot farther," she said. "I used to just hit into any sort of hazard that was off to the right. I was going to hit my ball into it every time. I don't lose as many balls now."
Koester and LaPrete credit Corbett for helping them with their games, especially in terms of course management.
"Coach tells us not to be an idiot," said LaPrete, who has a 4.38 GPA and plans to major in music or engineering. "He tells us to think about what we're doing before we do it.
"You need to think about where you are going to hit, where your hazards are, where your best play is going to be, what your ball is actually going to do when you hit it and what the smartest play is. When you think ahead and have a game plan, you'll be better off."
Corbett was happy to give the girls a chance to compete on a level playing field. Now he coaches a five-player team that also includes sophomores Emma Larsen and Jenna Rich-ards, who was the program's first district qualifier last fall.
"It was a tough situation playing against boys," Corbett said. "I didn't know what I would be getting into but Sophia, Carolyn and Jenna went out and competed, and Emma and Maura kept improving. It's been a blast."