All Saints Freshman Keeps Up With the Boys
Sun. October 07, 2012 at 1:20 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
All Saints' Academy's Lauren Thielen has a nine-hole scoring average of 42 playing from the boys' tees because the Saints couldn't field a girls team this year. (Photo by PAUL CRATE | LEDGER MEDIA GROUP )
By BILL KEMP | LEDGER MEDIA GROUP
WINTER HAVEN | When it became apparent All Saints' Academy wasn't going to field a girls golf team this season due to a lack of players, Lauren Thielen realized she may be devoting more time to her musical and canine interests. That was until a stroke of good news swung in her direction.
All Saints Athletic Director Steve Canlon contacted the Florida High School Athletic Association and was informed Thielen could tee-off with the boys since the school was unable to field a girls squad.
"When I found out I was going to be on the team I was excited because it is fun to play with the guys and it's a challenge," Thielen said.
Thielen now holds a nine-hole scoring average of 42 squaring off from the boys tees, which can typically add 500 yards or more over nine holes.
Playing against girls, Thielen qualified for two-consecutive regional berths and carded an 87 at the 18-hole Class 1A, District 13 meet at River Greens Golf Course in Avon Park last season.
The ASA boys now hold a 6-2 record and head coach Val Johnson said Thielen's presence is making the Saints stronger.
"In the respect that some of the guys are trying harder because they don't want to be beat by a girl," Johnson said. "Stephen Pike has the best swing on the team, but she's second as far as the smoothness"
Thielen's father, Mark, an avid golfer, introduced Lauren to the sport at an early age and said within a short time people started telling her she showed potential.
"She has a beautiful swing and that's what people notice about her. It's a by-the-book swing and it's because of her teacher Greg Coffin (Lake Best Golf Club) and Val," Mark said. "Lauren just always had that hand-eye coordination, even catching the ball as a kid."
Lauren experienced a rough start at All Saints' first match at Cypresswood Golf and Country Club in August, carding a 52 over nine holes.
But since then the right-hander has landed one of the Saints' decisive top-four scores in every meet, including four-consecutive rounds of 40.
"Her nine-hole average is now 42, which for a freshman and a girl is outstanding." Johnson said. "In three years, as far as I'm concerned, she is a Division I prospect."
Lauren said she was a tad-bit nervous at the season-opener but Johnson's encouragement pushed her over the hump.
"I thought I was going to be judged," Thielen said. "Coach came to me and said don't be nervous you can play as well as any of them."
Johnson realized Lauren had a "classical swing" so the coaching challenge wasn't on the fairway.
"When I watched her swing I knew if we got rid of the nervousness and got her confident that she is a player and she is going to start scoring," Johnson said.
Pike, who holds the third-best boys golf nine-hole average (37.4) among Polk County prep players this season, said he was very open to the idea of Lauren joining the team after watching her play at several tournaments over the past two years.
"I knew how good she was and I was definitely excited about it. But I don't think it made everybody happy because they had a little more competition and she was kicking some of their butts," Pike said.
Lauren will return to the girls tees Oct. 15 at Shalamar Creek and compete as an individual at the Class 1A-13 girls meet in hopes of qualifying for a third consecutive regional appearance.
"We're disappointed she can't play in districts with us. I think the whole team is on board now," Pike said.
Nevertheless, Lauren's 2012 regular season experience could pay dividends in the postseason.
"I think with her playing on the back tees, it's going to enhance her ability to manage the golf course," Johnson said. "She's extremely coachable, all I have to say to her is check your alignment."
Lauren is also accomplished playing the violin and cello and is heavily involved training her eight-month-old Labrador, Ethel, in a guide-dog program.