In her first team meeting last year, Moffat County girls golf coach Ann Marie Hamilton laid down her rules. The first impression didn't set well with some of the girls.
"She was telling us 'no' this and 'no' that," senior Amy Coulter said. "I wanted to quit."
April 3 At Glenwood 9 a.m.
April 6 Delta 9 a.m.
April 10 Battlement Mesa/Palisade 1 p.m.
April 11 Rifle 9 a.m.
April 20 Black Canyon/Montrose 9 a.m.
April 21 Durango 9 a.m.
April 24 Home Yampa Valley Golf Course 10 a.m.
April 27 Aspen 10 a.m.
May 1 Montrose 9 a.m.
May 2 Gunnison 9 a.m.
May 8, 9 Away Regionals at Glenwood TBA
May 15, 16 Away State golf at Pueblo TBA
Then, during the first practice, the team saw a more accurate side of the Moffat County alumna.
"It took them the first couple of minutes to see I wouldn't be that bad," Hamilton said.
The Ladies Professional Golf Association member said she spent her first season as coach observing and was careful to make changes. When she suggested something, some girls were slow to listen.
"They had to trust what I was telling them," she said. "That didn't happen right away but it did happen toward the end of the season (last spring) and in the summer."
The girls haven't had much of a chance to test drive their summer swings because of the weather.
"We don't look at (the snow) as a setback," Hamilton said. "When we're inside we work on getting the feel for chipping and putting and that transfers easily to outside."
Not only do the golfers have a feel for their short game, they have a better feel for their second-year coach.
"She was telling me totally new stuff that my other coaches hadn't," junior Amber Nicholson said. "Now I believe in her, and I'm willing to let her mold me into what she wants."
Nicholson, who went back and forth as the team's top golfer with Meghan Innes last year, was swinging down on the ball in a way that caused it to fly low and right.
She worked on her swing in the summer and has seen improvements.
"I always have Ann Marie's voice in my head telling me how to swing," she said. "There's a big difference in my consistency."
Innes, who qualified for the state tournament last year as a freshman, needed to elevate her backswing.
"I noticed it last year, and we worked on it a little bit before state," Hamilton said. "But we didn't focus on it fully until the summer."
It took Innes nine holes Monday to lock in her new backswing. The next day, she finished second to Nicholson in the Class 4A field.
Coulter and senior Chelsey Herod also worked closely with Hamilton during the summer.
The improvements have been widespread.
Only Herod hasn't shot lower than last season in the first two meets, and she was one stroke from her best at Tuesday's tournament in Grand Junction.
Nicholson and Innes finished with personal bests, 84 and 85, respectively.
"Last year, I shot in the 90s on a good day and 100s on a bad day," Innes said. "This year, it will be 80s and 90s."
Hamilton said both Nichol-son and Innes could sign off on some scores in the 70s this season.
"Once you break one barrier it gets easier," she said. "I think you'll see Meghan and Amber consistently in the 80s and Amy and Chelsey consistently in the 90s."
The team has only seven members, but in golf, a team only needs five in a varsity tournament. Because of low numbers on the team, everyone gets to play.
Last year, Natasha Chapman played 27 holes of competitive golf the entire season. As the team's No. 5 golfer, this year, she has already played 36 holes.
"Natasha is already enjoying it more this year," Hamilton said. "It helps when you actually get to play."
After competing this week, the Bulldogs have until April 3 for their next meet.
"We keep it fun," Innes said. "Hopefully the snow will melt sometime."
It's also fun when the prospects look good.
Last year's team finished second in the region and hopes to improve on that by one spot.
"(First) is an obtainable goal," Nicholson said. "That is our top goal right now."
Rifle beat the girls in their first meet but didn't play in the second meet. The Bulldogs improved their team score by more than 30 strokes on Day 2.
"I wish Rifle would have stayed so we could see where we matched up," Hamilton said.
The Bulldogs won't have a chance to see the Bears again until April, but until then, they'll go to several clinics and travel south several times to practice on an actual course.
"So far, everything is going well," Hamilton said. "Everybody is already shooting better, and they trust in me. Now, we just need some snow to melt."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.