ANDERSON — Veteran Lapel High School golf coach John Maryan has stepped away to focus on helping instruct younger golfers, but the new coach is a familiar face for Bulldog fans, and she has a talented weapon at the top of her scorecard for her debut season.

Molly (Fields) Bays takes over as the girls golf coach this year. She played for the Bulldogs before graduating in 2007 and moving on to play at Butler University for four years; she was an assistant coach at Anderson University for two years.

A biology teacher at Lapel, Bays is excited about taking over a program anchored by junior Kristen Hobbs.

“I don’t want to mess up what she’s got going on; she’s playing very well right now,” Bays said. “It’s nice to have somebody that can help the girls get in a groove. She’s a good role model for the younger players to look up to.”

Hobbs backed up a solid freshman year with a trip to regional as a sophomore in 2016, where she missed advancing to state by just three strokes. She has played well this summer, winning multiple junior tournaments around the state; Bays said she knows this creates high expectations for her junior star.

“I don’t want to put pressure on anyone, but I could see her going to state rather easily,” Bays said. “Especially the way she has been playing. I imagine she’ll go pretty far. She’s been pretty consistent lately.”

Bays will be looking to three other returning players to step up to support Hobbs. One is junior Lauren Lutz, who has been playing well in early workouts.

“In our first couple practices, nine holes, she was in the mid-40s,” Bays said. “It would be nice to get her under 90 (for 18).”

Two returning seniors, Makena Mason and Bridget Mudd, look to fill out the third and fourth spots on the scorecard. While Hobbs has assumed a large leadership role on this year’s team, Bays said her seniors are also good examples for the younger players.

“They add fun to the team,” Bays said. “They’re seniors, and they’re so close — that’s just a good example for the girls; they’re fun to be around.”

Bays also has two freshmen who are learning the game. Sierra Campbell is the younger sister of former Lapel all-state golfer Natalia Campbell, and Lauren Thompson is a left-hander joining the team this season. While neither has been playing long, Bays said, they can comfortably learn the game while occupying the fifth and sixth spots on the roster.

“Sierra hasn’t played much, but she’ll improve pretty quickly,” Bays said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how she does. Lauren has just started playing, so we’re looking for improvement from her, too.”

The Bulldogs are setting realistic goals for improvement and will be gunning for the Madison County title this year.

“I definitely think we can compete,” Bays said. “I think, if the girls play their best, we can compete.”

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Rob Hunt covers news, sports and other happenings in South Madison County. He can be reached at rhunt@pendletontimespost.com or (765) 778-2324.