Klein, Lady Hawks staying loose ahead of conference title defense

Sports editor
Posted 3/4/21

Returning three of its players from last year's Tri-County 3A Conference championship team, Triton talks repeat efforts ahead of the high school girls golf season opener on March 15.

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Klein, Lady Hawks staying loose ahead of conference title defense


ERWIN — Triton golfer Lana Klein stood on the practice greens at Chicora Golf Club Wednesday sharing a laugh with her three other teammates in between putts.

It’s the same jovial disposition that’s kept Klein and the Lady Hawks loose throughout the past three seasons, in which she has made both the regional and state tournament competitions while helping Triton claim the Tri-County 3A Conference Championship last year.

The 2020-21 season will feature fewer team matches and shorter postseason fields, but that hasn’t stopped Klein from maintaining high expectations and altering her playful spirit when the situation calls for it.

“I think if I stay serious and focused ... I could be No. 1 in conference, and maybe top 10 in regionals,” the Lady Hawks senior said after placing 15th at regionals last season.

The fall of 2019 saw Lee County senior Riley Varga take top individual honors in the league, with Klein taking second.

Klein says she and Varga share a friendly rivalry and have linked up a couple of times during the offseason to play a few holes, which has helped her game. 

“It’s definitely improved, I hit straighter and a little bit farther. It’s more consistent,” Klein said, noting putting and choosing the right clubs to help get a better feel for distance as being points of emphasis.

Triton coach Mark Whitman praised Klein’s commitment to improving, as she’s lowered her averages each year. He feels an individual conference title would be the proverbial “icing on the cake” to cap her career.

“She can do it ... she’s better and she’s more mature,” Whitman said, highlighting Klein’s daily workouts that feature strenuous CrossFit training sessions.

“She’s in the best shape she’s ever been in, so I think that’s played a big part in her golf swing and what she’s trying to do this year.” 

Whitman added that though he’s confident in Klein’s ability to make regionals for a fourth consecutive season, he knows how challenging it will be to crack a shortened state tournament field that has virtually been sliced in half.

“To make it to states will be a grind for Lana ... I think it’s the mental game for her, to keep her mentally tough at regionals when she has that one bad hole,” he said.

Madeline Scott is the team’s other senior. Scott has experience playing for the Coats-Erwin Middle golf team, but only played volleyball in high school because of the conflicting schedules in a normal athletic calendar year.

With high school golf pushed to the spring this season, Scott says some recruitment efforts from Klein and Whitman made all the difference in her decision to pick up the irons and tees again. 

“Golf can be fun. I never really played with Lana that much before because in middle school, she played softball and it always interfered,” Scott said.

“The mindset is a big thing. You got to remember to shake it off, because it can be so frustrating.”

Tristan Ennis is one of two juniors on the team and enters her second season with last year being the first time playing golf competitively.

Ennis echoed Scott’s thoughts about being in control both physically and psychologically.

“This is probably one of the hardest sports I’ve ever had to learn how to play, so patience is probably the one thing I’ve learned the most,” Ennis said.

Ennis and Neva Chance joined Klein at regionals a year ago, helping the Lady Hawks grab eight first-place finishes including the conference title.

Teams will play just nine holes in the regular season, then go to a traditional 18-hole format in the postseason, as part of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association amended regulations.

“I’ll definitely be more tired when 18 holes comes around, but I’ll still just go out there have fun and not let anything bother me,” Klein said.

Klein led the group with a 46.3 nine-hole average, while Ennis ended with a 57 and Chance sported a 61. 

The Lady Hawks’ pursuit of a second straight conference title is tentatively scheduled to begin March 15 when they host the first of six Tri-County 3A matches slated for this season.

“It’d be awesome. I think it’d be a good way to send Lana out — a little motivation for the girls that’s coming back for next year,” Whitman said of the chance to claim back-to-back championships.

“I think it’s gonna be tough, but I think they can do it if they want to.”


Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2040.


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