FARMINGTON - Sami Millerick and Erin Downes donâ€™t typically play matches together.
But on Monday, the two freshmen members of the St. Paul girls golf team were paired up, with Millerick being slotted into the No. 1 spot normally occupied by her sister, junior Natalie Millerick (the younger Millerick had to leave early for an audition as part of the drama club). They both shined, as Downes shot a 39 to earn medalist honors, and Sami Millerick shot a 43 (as did Natalie).
The two varsity rookies playing together may be unique four matches into the 2019 season, but it provided a brief microcosm of two things - the bright future of the Falconsâ€™ team and the excitement surrounding the program.
St. Paul is in just its third year of being an official team, but the marked improvement across the board has been felt by each girl who swung a club Monday afternoon in a 176-186 win over Canton.
â€śThe first year [in 2017], we were kind of struggling a little bit because it was such a new team,â€ť junior Jillian Kiazim said. â€śBut then as we improved, we moved up in the state rankings, and weâ€™ve been improving every year.â€ť
Kiazim and Natalie Millerick were freshmen on the 2017 team, and they were joined by then-sophomore Sarah Richardson, all three of whom are still with the program.
That first season, those three made up 60 percent of the five-girl team. That number jumped to nine girls in 2018, and now, the program has more than doubled in size with 11 total golfers.
â€śMore girls seem to want to play because they hear how it fun it is,â€ť Richardson said. â€śYou make new friends as you go along and play with other teams.â€ť
Added Natalie Millerick: â€śWe have a lot of beginner golfers on the team too just because weâ€™ve brought girls to the team and encouraged them to try the sport.â€ť
Two of the beginners Millerick references are her sister and Downes, and as Monday showed, the two have continued to impress.
â€śI think weâ€™ve kind of just told [Downs and Sami] to not treat any match differently than a practice,â€ť Millerick said. â€śAlthough it is a competition, itâ€™s not necessarily something you should worry about. Most of the girls we play are very nice. Itâ€™s not something to necessarily stress over. Golf is supposed to be fun. â€¦ In addition to working on your swing and everything, I think you need to continue to work on your mental state while playing and remember that each shot is its own individual shot. I over-think it sometimes.â€ť
Her elder sisterâ€™s advice seems to be something Sami has taken to heart.
â€śOverall, I think [golf is] mainly about having fun. Even if youâ€™re not having your best day, you should still have fun,â€ť Sami Millerick said. â€śComing into [this season], itâ€™s been a lot easier for me because [Natalie] told me what itâ€™s like to be on an actual high school team. I had to know what to be prepared with, and I had to know how to respect people properly.â€ť
The only question now with Sami and Downes having a few matches of experiences and Natalie playing well too, who is the best golfer of the bunch?
â€śIt depends on the day,â€ť Natalie Millerick said with a laugh. â€śIâ€™ve been playing No. 1, but [Mondayâ€™s] schedule got messed up. Sami and Erin are definitely up there, and I think theyâ€™ve both come a long way. And they still have a long way to come. Theyâ€™re already at my [level]. I think they have a lot of room for improvement and can be really amazing golfers.â€ť
Natalie makes a great point. Sami and Downes each have three more seasons to grow on the links. Even so, thatâ€™s not in the front of their minds.
â€śIâ€™m not really thinking about the future,â€ť Downes said. â€ś[I want] to just have fun and continue what Iâ€™m doing, [which is] to try and improve but just focus on this season.â€ť
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com