Leila Raines has been at a disadvantage every time she has stepped up to a tee this season, but it's impossible to tell from her play.
Raines is playing with the Olentangy Berlin High School boys golf team because the girls program does not have the necessary four players to compete as a team in tournaments. It means Raines, a junior, must play from "the tips" -- the tees farthest from the green -- where opponents typically outdrive her by 75 yards or more.
However, Raines often gets the last laugh, averaging 74.25 in 18-hole events and tying for medalist honors three times. She blocks out the difference in drives and makes up for it with her short game.
"My drive is usually around 230 or 240 (yards), but I have been able to get better on my short game," she said. "I'm really consistent with my longer driver and woods, which is good for me.
"Definitely at first, (the boys) are like 'I'm playing with a girl' and all of that, which I get. But at the end of the round, they have respect for me and my game."
Raines is used to shooting low numbers, but from the girls tees. As a freshman at Olentangy, the Michigan State commit finished seventh (72) in the Division I state tournament. She did not play for the Braves last fall, opting to compete in several top-flight amateur events.
"You see smirks of some teams that don't know about her yet," coach Andrew Fraley said. "They see we have a girl and think they are going to come in and beat us pretty badly. Then she goes out and beats their No. 1 or 2 by 10 or 12 strokes.
"They might outdrive her, but she'll still go out and put up a 69 or 70. She has been a medalist three times this year from this distance. She's unfazed and is able to block out that noise and stay hyper-concentrated like a horse with blinders on. It's awesome to watch."
While the driving distance may create a disadvantage now, it will help Raines in future seasons. The coaching staff at Michigan State was thrilled about her playing from the tips.
"I contacted the coaches at Michigan State and they were 100 percent for it," she said. "They were actually really excited about it because it would help prepare me for college.
"I'm getting used to having a long club in my hand all the time. When (the course is) 6,000 yards or something like that (for boys), the girls (course) is 5,200 (yards), which is so short. I usually don't touch my mid-irons, it's usually just my long irons, my woods and my hybrids. I knew I had to dial in on my longer clubs."
Raines will be competing as an individual in the girls postseason, but as of Sept. 10, the Bears had not been assigned divisions for the boys or girls programs.
"Most of the girls tournaments are around 5,700 yards and it will be around 6,000 or 6,100 yards at state," Fraley said. "The shortest (boys) tournament we played this year has been 6,500 yards. Some of the girls tournaments are around 5,500 yards so she's playing 1,000 yards more than she normally would. Over 18 holes that can be 70, 80 (or) even 100 yards per hole, and that's a big difference."
The short game that has helped Raines compete with the boys also will benefit her during the girls postseason.
"It's going to be way shorter (from the girls tees)," she said. "I'm going to have to practice my wedges because I have been using my woods and my driver a lot more. I definitely have to dial in my short game for (the postseason)."
Raines does not attend the brick-and-mortar high school, but takes classes online through Olentangy Local Schools. This allows her the freedom to travel to tournaments in the fall and get in some rounds during the winter months from her grandparents' home in The Villages, Florida.
Her older sister, Kara Raines, is a sophomore with the Youngstown State women's golf program.
Entering the fourth and final round of the OCC-Cardinal Division tournament Sept. 12 at Denison Golf Club, the first-year Bears were second (17-4) behind defending state champion Dublin Jerome (21-0).
Raines was seventh in average (78.0) behind league leader Ethan Snyder (69.33) of Jerome. She shot an 80 on Aug. 7 at Apple Valley and on Aug. 13 at Turnberry, but improved to a 74 on Aug. 29 at Darby Creek.
Despite her success, Raines said she sometimes gets butterflies when walking up to the tee.
"My scores kind of showed I was a little nervous in the OCCs," she said. " I shot 73 at Apple Valley in tryouts from the tips, so I thought I would do better. I have learned throughout the season to not put pressure on myself.
"(Fraley) has taught me to push myself. Sometimes I get like, 'I'm a girl and I don't feel like I can play with these guys,' especially against the really good players like at Jerome. If I have a bad shot, I have to just get over it and play. That's all I can do."
Girls soccer team aims to get back on track
After a 2-2 start, the girls soccer team had lost three consecutive games entering its contest Sept. 11 against Big Walnut.
The Bears are 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal. They defeated Dublin Scioto 2-1 on Aug. 28 on goals from Ashley Kerekes and Sydney Walker and lost to Hilliard Bradley 3-1 on Sept. 4 as Sarah Cain scored.
Through seven games, Cain and Walker led the team with two goals apiece and goalkeeper McKinley Hoffmann had 84 saves.
Boys soccer team earns first victory
The boys soccer team won its first game, defeating Fairbanks 4-1 on Sept. 6.
The Bears are 1-2-4 overall and 0-1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal entering their game Thursday, Sept. 13, at Jerome.
Against Fairbanks, Austin Corley had two goals and Brendan Greenhalge and Connor Kindell also scored. Goalie Connor Sexton had one save.
Despite having only one win, the Bears have outscored opponents 9-8.
Below are the coming schedules for the Berlin cross country, field hockey, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 15 -- Otterbein Invitational
*Sept. 17 -- At Dublin Coffman
Sept. 15 -- Rodney Butt Classic at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 17 -- Delaware County Bank Cup at Royal American
*Sept. 13 -- At Dublin Jerome
Sept. 17 -- At Westerville Central
*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Jerome
Sept. 18 -- At Westerville Central
Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Wellington
Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Hartley
*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Delaware
Sept. 17 -- At Westerville North
Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Westerville Central