PUEBLO — Sometimes perspective can provide the proper inspiration. That’s certainly the case for the St. Mary’s Academy girls golf team. Like any team playing in the Class 3A state tournament at Elmwood Golf Course in Pueblo, the Wildcats are looking for a state title. But there is so much more on the line for them.
A state championship isn’t just an achievement. It’s a thank you. They want to thank coach Ann Wolta Blackstone for the time that she dedicates to them to help them improve their game. Especially when she has a life-changing battle of her own.
Wolta Blackstone is going through her third battle against breast cancer. But even in the midst of fighting off a life-threatening disease, she’s coaching her girls through their swings and seeing the best results she can.
Led by freshman Maddy Bante’s even-par 71, the Wildcats came out of the first day of the state tournament with the team lead.
“It’s amazing,” Wolta Blackstone said. “I’ve coached for six years at St. Mary’s Academy, and this is the first time I’ve had three really good golfers. It’s just so fun. It’s fun to watch them compete and have a good time.”
Having a good time can certainly help when the scores are favorable.
The Wildcats have three players inside the top 10 on the leaderboard. Bante’s 71 was the low round of the day at Elmwood and she’ll go into Tuesday’s final round with a three-stroke lead over Jefferson Academy’s Aubri Braecklein.
She never let herself get into too much trouble. She made a bogey on the par 4 fifth hole then regained the stroke by sinking a long birdie putt on the par 5 ninth.
On the back nine, she made bogeys on 13 and 17 but got a huge emotional and confidence boost as she chipped in for eagle on 16.
— Daniel Mohrmann (@DanMohrmann) June 21, 2021
“I definitely was not expecting that,” Bante said. “I just wanted to get it to within a few inches. It will bring me a lot more confidence on that hole and get me to thinking I can get there in two.”
Her tee shot veered left on 18, but she escaped the trouble and got up and down for a par and the best round of her life. As she walked off the green, she and Wolta Blackstone embraced and allowed the emotions of the round and situation at hand wash over them.
Prior to heading to the course, the team had surprised their coach with a fresh set of golf shirts for everyone. The St. Mary’s Academy logo was in pink and a pink ribbon along with "Coach Ann" were stitched on the right sleeve.
It was the idea way for them to remember to play with their emotions on their sleeves as they hunt the first girls golf title in school history.
“I really wanted to do something special for her,” junior Mallory Hopper said. “This year I thought we would make it all about her because she inspires us with her strength every single day. It was a way to honor all that she does for us.”
Hopper’s 83 has her in 10th place on the leaderboard while Natalie Tatar shot 77 to sit in fourth. With Bante sitting in first heading into Tuesday, the Wildcats have a chance to take both the individual title and the team championship.
And there’s nothing they’d like more than to play their way to those championships for their coach.
“I’m so blessed with Coach Ann,” Bante said. “We are so thankful for her so doing this for her is just a small thing compared to what she’s done for us.”
Tuesday’s goal of winning a state title is a goal for both players and coach. It’s no longer about any of them doing anything for each other. It’s all about doing something together.