ST. JOHN | Last season, Lake Central's Kylie Shoemake battled through the growing pains of being a freshman in the No. 1 golfer's spot.
She had the skill to excel as one of the area's best golfers but struggled with both consistency and confidence. She knew that was something she needed to improve.
But now, as a sophomore, Shoemake has gained confidence. Playing in the Mountain Dew Tour around Indiana this summer was a tremendous benefit.
"It got me more confidence, and I got to play new courses and meet girls I'll be playing against," she said. "I feel like I'm coming into this high school season with more confidence. I'm not scared anymore."
Playing in the Northwest Indiana Junior Golf Association has also paid its dividends, and coach Chris Rossiano has taken notice of her increased confidence.
"If you have to clear a big marsh or something like that where other girls might clam up and dunk one in there, she doesn't really see it as an obstacle. She just knows she has to hit the ball this far," he said. "She's a little more confident with her swing. She's confident with her shot selection."
Shoemake's average scores have dropped significantly. She shoots in the low 40s in nine holes and in the 80s on 18 holes. Last season, Shoemake would typically card in the low 90s on an 18-hole round. Shoemake sports a personal best nine-hole round of 39 in competition and an 18-hole round of 83. A goal of breaking 80 this season is firmly set in her mind, and a solid short game will only help her.
"For a sophomore, definitely short game," Rossiano said of Shoemake's top aspects as a golfer. "In girls golf especially, the ones who separate themselves as being elite have a good short game. A lot of times you don't see that until their junior or senior year. She's pretty confident around the greens."
Shoemake and the Indians missed qualifying for state as a team by 18 strokes, finishing fourth in the LaPorte Regional. As an individual, Shoemake carded a 90, rebounding from a forgettable front nine of 50 to finish with 40 on the back nine. It's no big secret that Shoemake aims to fire back and qualify for state this season, as well as become an All-DAC selection.
"I was disappointed but also proud of myself about coming back on the back nine," she said. "I really want to go to state. I've been practicing a lot every day."