Morgan Pankow and Madison Spiess have become a formidable 1-2 punch atop the New Albany High School girls golf team's lineup, not necessarily in that order, and each appreciates the presence of the other.
Spiess, a freshman, has played the game since she was 4 years old and won her first tournament -- a U.S. Kids Golf event -- when she was 7.
Conversely, Pankow, a junior, primarily played softball growing up and did not take up golf until she was almost to high school.
Nonetheless, both have helped the Eagles to what so far has been a memorable season. Spiess is averaging 73, two shots ahead of Pankow, and both have shared time as the team's top golfer.
"This has benefited both of them," coach Rich Ritter said. "Madison has had some good performances. She wants to compete and she wants to win. It's good for her to have another player who is a worthy competitor. For Morgan, it's a positive because for three years, she hasn't had anybody really close to her (score-wise) on the team. They feed off each other and make each other better."
In the fourth and final round of the OCC-Central Division tournament Sept. 12 at Royal American, Pankow and Spiess each shot 77 to tie Dublin Coffman's Maria Howard for medalist honors and the Eagles finished third (357) behind Upper Arlington (333) and Coffman (345) and ahead of Hilliard Davidson (397), Canal Winchester (399) and Marysville (403).
Also scoring for the Eagles were Gwynnie Lee (93) and Abby Wilcox (110).
New Albany went 9-11 to finish third overall behind UA (20-0) and Coffman (16-4) and ahead of Davidson (7-13), Canal Winchester (6-14) and Marysville (2-18).
Along the way, the Eagles set a record for low score in a league tournament with a 329 in the second round Aug. 15 at Westchester. Six days later, led by Spiess' round of 69, New Albany shot a program-record 322 in the Centerville Elk Invitational at The Golf Club at Yankee Trace.
Spiess missed the first round of the league tournament because she was competing in an American Junior Golf Association tournament in Michigan. She debuted with a 67 on Aug. 11 during the Olentangy Invitational at Oakhaven.
Her older brother, New Albany junior Logan Spiess, was an individual qualifier for the Division I state boys tournament last year. He shot a 76 in the rain-shortened event and tied five other golfers for ninth place.
"(High school golf) was a big adjustment. Courses are a lot shorter (than in amateur tournaments)," Madison Spiess said. "I had to work a lot on my wedges and accuracy. I would say I'm best at putting. I'm not all that big (5-foot-1) so I have to make up strokes putting."
Pankow, who shot a 110 and a 106 in her first two high school tournaments, now devotes herself to the game. She has played in AJGA, GolfWeek Junior Tour and Hurricane Junior Golf Tour events and called her long game her strength.
Pankow's best round is a 67, shot this summer during a camp at Clemson, and she carded a 71 in the Bear-Lion Open on Aug. 26 at Cooks Creek.
"I never figured this would happen, but my grandpa saw it," Pankow said. "He always took me to the range when I was younger and he said I had a natural swing. That was when I was maybe 5 years old. He somehow always knew."
Boys golfers win
another league title
Boys golf coach Andy Moore had to ask how many consecutive OCC-Capital championships his team has won.
Thanks to a balanced effort in the final round of the league tournament Sept. 13 at Apple Valley, New Albany extended its streak of titles to seven.
"A lot of people keep close track of statistics, but I don't," Moore said. "We never ask guys what they got on a previous hole. We want to concentrate on what they're doing right then and get ready for the next shot. ... They keep battling forward. I like the guys' focus right now."
Griffin Green, Spencer Green and Logan Spiess all shot 76 for the Eagles, who recorded a team score of 306, ahead of Big Walnut (337), Canal Winchester (364) and Newark (387). Franklin Heights and Groveport did not have team scores.
Jack Curtis added a 78 to round out the scoring for New Albany. Caleb Delaney shot an 89.
New Albany went 20-0 in the OCC-Capital to finish ahead of Big Walnut (16-4), Canal Winchester (12-8), Newark (8-12), Groveport (4-16) and Franklin Heights (0-20).
The Eagles' 306 on Sept. 13 was 37 shots better than their performance during the St. Charles Invitational on Sept. 9 at Brookside.
"That kind of balance is what we've been working toward," Moore said. "It's a competitive lineup, and the guys are better because of that. Like Sam Davis (New Albany's veteran boys basketball coach) says, 'confidence comes from repeated demonstration of success.' If you lose confidence, you question everything. I want to make sure these guys know they are good players and they can compete with anyone.
"Apple Valley is a great course to put up the kind of score we did (Sept. 13). I wanted them to go out lighthearted and not feel an ounce of pressure, and that's exactly how they performed."
Tennis team closes
in on league title
The girls tennis team clinched at least a share of its 11th OCC-Capital championship in 12 years Sept. 12, defeating host Big Walnut 3-2.
Both teams came into the match undefeated in league play.
New Albany was 6-2 overall before playing Gahanna on Sept. 18. It is 4-0 in the OCC-Capital.
A league match against Newark that was originally scheduled for Aug. 24 had yet to be rescheduled entering the week, and coach Marc Thomas was unsure whether it would be played at all.
Pending their match against Newark, the Eagles were 72-1 in OCC-Capital matches since joining the conference before the 2006-07 school year.
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 23 -- Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster
*Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Lancaster
Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Sept. 23 -- Wedgewood Showcase
Sept. 26 -- Dublin Coffman at Rattlesnake Ridge
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*Sept. 26 -- At Groveport
Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Watterson
Sept. 27 -- At Dublin Jerome
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 26 -- At Newark. The Eagles lost to the Wildcats 25-19, 25-21, 14-25, 22-25, 18-16 on Sept. 5.