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Young Skyhawk squad builds around Whatley

Kevin Schwallie could lean on several reliable seniors during his first two seasons as Silverado’s girls golf coach.

This year, not so much, and the amount of coaching he has to do has increased dramatically.

“I’ve probably done more the last two weeks than all of the last (two) seasons,” Schwallie said. “Last season, it was more strategic, but now I’m working with (players) on swings, rules, baseline-type skills. I’ve had to sharpen my game a little bit.”

Schwallie returns four players from last year, but lost three of his top four. Junior Brittany Whatley, a plus-one handicap player who tied for 12th at the 2009 Class 4A state meet, returns as the Skyhawks’ top talent and team leader.

“For the last two years I’ve been the No. 1 or No. 2 (player), so I’ve always wanted to help all the girls on the team in any way I can,” Whatley said. “(I) try to get them to work on their game and boost up their confidence so that we could be more competitive as a team.”

Whatley, 16, shot a two-round total of 170 as a sophomore at state and also competed in the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships at Torrey Pines in San Diego in July.

This weekend Whatley will join Coronado’s Melanie Chambers and Julian Glasser among 78 junior golfers chosen to play in the Home & Hospice First Tee Open, a Champions Tour event at Pebble Beach, Calif. Each junior will compete with a Champions Tour partner in a best-ball tournament, receiving valuable on-course experience from a seasoned pro.

Whatley and her father, Chris, recently attended the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, so she’s excited to get the chance to play the historic links.

“Getting to play with pros and other juniors on that kind of stage, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me,” she said.

At Silverado, Whatley has been joined by older sister Stephanie, who returns as a volunteer assistant three years after she helped the Skyhawks win the state championship. Stephanie Whatley is a sophomore walk-on at UNLV who played in four tournaments as a freshman.

“She’s a college golfer, and she thought she could bring a lot back to us,” Brittany Whatley said. “If any of us wanted to go to that arena, she felt she could help us.

Whatley said she wants to compete professionally, but has designs on playing in college and earning a law degree.

“I’m not 100 percent sure which way I might go, but I’ve been thinking about going pro after college,” she said. “I’m just going to take it one step at a time. My first goal is to make it through the season, and get coaches looking at me, and interested.”

Providing depth for Silverado are Ronnay Morris, the team’s only senior; Katie Comeno, a junior transfer from Eldorado; and rising sophomore Nicole D’Arpa.

Schwallie is confident his team can compete for a postseason berth, but said the Skyhawks are building for the future, too.

“All these girls are going to be back next year, so right now we’re not on a seven-week plan — we’re on a 60-week plan,” he said. “When the playoffs come, it’s just a matter of how much better we’ve become in the last six weeks. Can those young players step up to the plate, and play well when it matters?

“Hopefully, me putting confidence in them and knowing they have to step up will allow them to succeed.”

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