When Margie Hovde took over as coach of the Ferndale girls’ golf program three years ago, she told athletic director Vic Randall what she planned to accomplish.
Year one: get girls aware of the program and get numbers out to the team.
Year two: qualify girls for districts.
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Year three: qualify girls for state.
Hovde is the first to admit, though, that while she feels proud for what Ferndale’s girls’ golf has become, she owes much of the credit to the girls. Two of the biggest leaders are the pair competing in the Class 3A State Championships on Wednesday, May 27, at Horn Rapids Golf Course in Richland — Cienna Semsak and Jillian Anderson.
“I don’t have to be a great coach, they make me look good because of who they are,” Hovde said in a phone interview.
And who they are transcends golf.
Anderson is the junior class president and heavily involved in the club DECA, with whom she went to nationals during the middle of the season.
“It’s been a lot the past couple weeks with so many other things, like DECA and just school in general,” Anderson said in a phone interview. “But I think golf is one of the things that’s most fun so it’s easy to prioritize that over other activities. ... Taking a walk on the course is just very enjoyable.”
Semsak is a natural leader, Hovde said, and hasn’t missed a day of practice in her three years with the program.
Together Anderson and Semsak have helped shape the Ferndale girls’ golf program and state is the reward.
“I think it’s pretty exciting,” Semsak said in a phone interview. “It’s been my goal since I started my sophomore year.”
Anderson said of the chance to go to state, “It’s very very exciting and something I wasn’t expecting at all. Even making the second day of districts was crazy to me. It’s kind of like a roller coaster: it just keeps going and going.”
But while both hit their strides late in the season, neither one’s season began on great footing.
For Anderson a broken bone in her foot and a sprained ankle sustained during the basketball season had her a little rusty coming into the year. Semsak, after an opening nine-hole round of 49 at Raspberry Ridge, never shot below 100 over 18 holes until districts.
It was all a bit concerning for Hovde at the time.
“I was kind of surprised and disappointed midway through the season that nobody had shot 100. ... I was a bit discouraged,” Hovde said. “I was thinking we could get some girls to state and at that point I was thinking a little bit that it wasn’t going to happen.”
But Semsak and Anderson stuck with it. Anderson’s ankle and foot got healthier, Semsak continued to hit the links day in and day out and both put together excellent district rounds to qualify.
“Everyday obviously go to practice; go without fail. I wasn’t going to improve unless I kept trying,” Semsak said. “For every sport I’ve ever played, I just always had the dedication to improve. I know I can do better and when the game doesn’t respond how I think I should be doing, I keep practicing and trying.”
Both are hoping to make the second day at state, but Hovde knows it will be a challenge. Last year the cut was 94 and that’s right around the personal bests for each golfer, who have somewhat contrasting styles.
Semsak is the long-ball hitter, who can smack it a mile but it may stray to the right. Anderson is “steady eddie,” Hovde said; she has the talent in all three areas of the game (driving, approach and putting), but usually only two are working at the same time.
Either way, both will be tested by the dry conditions of the east side course.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we do playing in desert conditions. It’s a different atmosphere, more competitive than anything they’ve seen and a dry desert course,” Hovde said. “All through the season we laughed that the girls could knock 10 to 20 strokes off their game in dry weather because of the rolls. We’ll find out what happens with dry playing conditions.”
Semsak will depart as a senior after state, but Anderson will return to a budding program that had nine golfers qualify for districts, only being able to compete with six in the tournament.
It’s all very exciting for Hovde, and it appears it’s only up from here.