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WOMEN’S GOLF: Shoemaker helps lift Lady Warriors to nationals
Lexie Shoemaker of Mount Vernon. LARGER IMAGE
INA, Ill. – Lexie Shoemaker may look like the girl next door. But put a golf club in her hand and one will see that inside her petite frame beats the competitive heart of a Warrior.
It showed early this week when the Rend Lake College freshman from Mount Vernon finished a career-high, third place for All-Region XXIV honors. Her performance helped lift the Lady Warriors to its 10th NJCAA Region XXIV women’s golf title in 14 years and another trip to the national championships.
Rend Lake Head Coach Cindy Corn, who on Monday received her eighth NJCAA Region XXIV Coach of the Year honor, said the region win was a team effort, significantly bolstered by her freshmen, Shoemaker and Taylor Koeller of Saint Libory (Freeburg High School).
Any thoughts Shoemaker’s region opponents may have had about benefitting from her inexperience were quickly dismissed. The five-foot, two-inch Shoemaker crushed her competition on the course, beating her competitors by a combined 21 strokes – most of the 34 that separated the Lady Warriors from runner-up John A. Logan.
In the final round on Monday, Shoemaker found herself, for the first time as a collegiate player, competing as high as #2 for her team. She finished the round in a three-way tie for the lowest score that day, an 85, with RLC medalist Gabbi Schuerman and Volunteer Alexis Gatton.
“Lexie stepped up to the challenge of playing against John A. Logan’s number two player. She beat her by seven shots on Monday, which was a huge lift for us,” said Corn. “The first day, Lexie played the four spot and beat her opponent by 14 shots!”
“I was nervous at first,” Shoemaker said of the final round. “But after the first couple of holes, I didn’t worry about anything. I just kept my game going.”
Shoemaker said memories of double bogeys from the day before began to creep into her mind. That was, until her first birdie.
“Once I got a putt for birdie I just started thinking how much easier it was, getting up there for a birdie or par. In the end, I wasn’t thinking at all about doubles and triples. I was focusing on birdies and pars. I think that helped me a lot.”
“All the swing adjustments Lexie has made over the last four months have really come together for her at the right time,” said Corn. “She realizes she still has to work to get better and be a leader on next year’s team. She definitely has leadership ability in her and she is very athletic.”
“I’m hitting my driver straight a lot more and that’s adding 20 yards on my shot,” Shoemaker said. “It’s helping to boost my confidence that I can drive the same distance others can.”
Shoemaker and the Lady Warriors have one more tournament this season – the NJCAA DI Women’s Golf Championships, May 14-17, in Daytona Beach, Fla. The team is ranked ninth in the nation on the latest NJCAA poll. The poll’s top 10 features perennial powerhouses Redlands, Seminole State, and reigning champ and host Daytona State College.
The Lady Warriors are led by Region XXIV medalist Schuerman of Decatur. She is joined by fellow sophomores Hannah Gill of Carterville – All-Region XXIV fifth place – and Keeghan May of Nashville; and freshmen Shoemaker and Koeller.
“Taylor also stepped up in the region on Monday,” Corn said. “She and Lexie have the same golf swing. They know to look to each other. They both face the same challenges in their golf swings, so they are there for each other, trying to improve to be leaders on our team next year. We have a solid base for next year’s team coming in.”
In response, Shoemaker said, “I just have to work this summer and start shooting in the 70s and low-80s. I agree with [Corn] 100 percent. You have to encourage the freshmen. The sophomores have encouraged us this year. Everyone has their bad days. You just have to lift each other up.”