Drive to improve has Sims sitting atop Skyline’s golf lineup

Skyline High School's Lauren Sims practices her putting at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club in Front Royal. Sims is Skyline High School's top golfer this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Lauren Sims was several months removed from her freshman season with Skyline High School’s golf team in 2015 when she traveled to Williamsburg to watch Brooke Henderson, her favorite professional golfer, compete in the LPGA Tour’s Kingsmill Championship.

As Sims watched the then-17-year-old Henderson on the links, she recalled on Tuesday afternoon, she began to think. She’d already convinced herself that she was going to work harder to become a better golfer in time for her sophomore season with Skyline in 2016, and seeing Henderson perform in person made her decide that with enough practice Sims could one day become as strong on the course as Henderson.

So Sims, who had already increased her time on the golf course during the winter of her freshman year, continued to hit the links with even more frequency as the weather became more favorable.

Sims spent so much time on the golf course, in fact, that Skyline head coach Roy Kelly said he had to talk to her about easing back on that workload this past summer, in order to lessen the physical toll and keep Sims in good health throughout the upcoming 2017 season.

But Sims’ drive to get better was also the reason Kelly, in his first season at Skyline last fall, stuck her at the top of the Hawks’ lineup in 2016.

“You don’t see that very often in younger kids. Maybe you have some parents pushing and forcing them out there, but she just loves being on the golf course,” Kelly said.

“With golf you do need to play a lot and to maintain that consistency. I think that’s what she’s kind of put herself in a position to do, is to just always be able to put up a score. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that made me want to have her as my number one was the fact that I could trust that she doesn’t mind playing with the best players out there. It doesn’t faze her and she’s just comfortable in that role.”

Sims, who played as Skyline’s No. 6 as a freshman, fit quite comfortably in her new role as the Hawks’ top golfer as a sophomore last season. She held that spot for the entire season, consistently fired scores in the low to mid 80s – she topped out at 75 in Skyline’s second tournament of 2016, a Northwestern District mini at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, the Hawks’ home course – and placed 11th in the Conference 28 tournament.

Outside of the initial nerves of holding the title of Skyline’s No. 1, Sims enjoyed the increased responsibility and the pressure that comes along with it.

“I feel like it’s more competitive being No. 1,” she said, “because you’re the best from your team and you get to play with all the other players who are number one, who also play well.”

For Sims, during the high school season at least, that also means primarily squaring off against boys, as female golfers remain somewhat of a rarity among local high school golf teams.

“I feel like playing with the guys, I’m more driven to beat them because it’s guys and I wanna beat them,” Sims said with a smile. “I feel like (against) the guys I’m more competitive.”

Sims’ 2016 production on the course landed her on The Northern Virginia Daily’s All-Area Golf Team, although her sophomore season ended on a frustrating note when a wrist injury forced her to exit the Region 3A East tournament on the 10th hole.

She chose not to compete in the Virginia High School League Girls Open zone qualifier a few weeks later.

“That is not the way she wanted to see the season end and I think she’s kind of ready to show she belonged in that tournament,” Kelly said of Sims’ early exit in the regional tournament.

Sims’ first step toward returning to the regional tournament – Skyline is now a member of Class 3, Region B under the VHSL’s newest realignment – as a junior begins Wednesday with the 17th Annual Curly Licklider Memorial Golf Tournament at SVGC, which will mark the start of the 2017 season for Skyline, Warren County, Central, Strasburg and Sherando high schools.

Sims grew up in a home on Front Royal’s Bowling Green Country Club and was introduced to golf by her father, Randy, around the age of 8. She has worked with local PGA instructors David Oates and Monty Goff and has prepared for the new season with her tireless devotion to golf.

She said she plays five days a week on average, tries to hit balls at least once a day to keep her swing in form, worked hard in the winter on improving her short game – her strongest asset on the course, she noted – and has expanded her offseason play to include tournaments in the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour.

On the eve of Skyline’s first golf tournament of 2017, Kelly said Sims will reprise her role atop the Hawks’ lineup, which will include a top four rounded out by seniors Trenton Little, Brandon Griffith and Joseph Embrey.

“It’s kind of getting to that point where she really is the role model on the team, even with the seniors out there, just because of her connection with golf,” Kelly said. “The other guys may play other sports or something but for her golf is the sport, and I think that’s a big thing.”