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Lots of talent on South Shore

Mike Traum

Playing fields and gymnasiums at the area high schools this fall contain some of the best athletes this town has produced in quite awhile.

Potential Division 1 college players are literally scattered amongst the prep teams like sugar on cinnamon toast. But perhaps the most talented athlete of the bunch isn’t wearing shoulder pads or spiking balls into an unsuspecting opponent’s forehead.

No, this one needs merely a bag of graphite sticks and a little white ball to deliver her to the big time. She is South Tahoe High senior, Mackenzie Francis.

The teen-age linkster boasts an average score in the mid-80s while getting to play just five or six months out of the year. Her career-best round is 76 and she’s most recently played in a Junior World tournament and was a representative for Northern Nevada at a national competition in Wyoming.

I can attest to her talent. In a recent outing at the Golf Club at Genoa Lakes, Francis schooled me and a couple of co-workers in the fine art of hitting it down the middle, chipping it close and making par. If we’d been playing for money, we’d now be broke. She reeled off a pair of birdies on consecutive par-3s that couldn’t have been played better.

And the most impressive part was that she carried her cheek-to-cheek smile while taking it to us.

Francis undoubtedly possesses the talent to earn a college scholarship.

But here’s the catch – exposure. While sports like football garner city-wide interest, Francis’ followers need to brave the chilly, often tedious chore of hiking around a golf course for five hours or more.

Consequently, there aren’t too many followers. Adding to the dilemma is that Francis can only practice during a short period of time. While fellow prepsters around the country can play golf year-round, Francis is forced to drive no less than 45 minutes each way just to get some live swings once the snow starts flying. Even then, it’s hard to get a feel when your hands are numb.

The point is that Francis is in a not-so-unique position when it comes to the grand scheme of high school talent – she’s got a chance to move on. She may even have enough game to achieve elite status in the sport.

But she’s held back by factors that most athletes don’t worry about.

Golf is never been a high-profile sport. Heck, the team has been around less than five years.

But it’s time to step up and give this young woman some support. Francis deserves to go to college on a scholarship. If a coach has the foresight enough to give her the chance, an opportunity to play every day, there’s no doubt she won’t disappoint.

* As long as we’re talking chances, somebody needs to pick up Dan McLaughlin, the volleyball coach at Whittell High. Yes, the volleyball coach.

McLaughlin has assembled a high-powered group of varsity players, good enough to challenge for the division title. But his time is split while he also tries to direct the junior varsity team.

With what McLaughlin and the girls want to achieve, coupled with the coach’s desire to be the best, he finds himself in a difficult spot – Whittell needs a junior varsity coach. Once on track, the Warriors will be a feared team in the 3A.

And maybe, just maybe, the town will finally get to see the matchup that would be so much fun – Whittell vs. South Tahoe.

* Anyone who watched South Tahoe’s football team beat Reno on Saturday got quite an offensive show. I’m not talking points scored or yardage racked up. No, the Vikings got it done where it counts – on the offensive line. While Bryan Bough was having an untypical day carrying the ball, Seth Martin, Jake Werley, Ryan Souza, Brad Cimino, John Shaver, Henry Hoppe and Co. made the difference, giving Bret Uppendahl time to execute his quick-read style of quarterbacking.

In the Vikes’ charge toward a division and state title, this group of young men will undoubtedly be the difference.


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