GIBSON CITY - After 20 years coaching varsity volleyball, basketball and softball, Judy Weber-Jones took a 10 year hiatus.
But when she saw how promising the GCMS girls golf team looked, Weber-Jones couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fill the head coaching position left vacant by the resignation of Guy Percy.
“I knew it was going to be a special group,” Weber-Jones said. “And I wanted to make sure special things happen for them.”
Weber-Jones, who has one hole-in-one to her name, didn’t have a team to play on when she was in school but has played recreationally for years and hopes her love of the game contributes to the team’s promising development.
“I saw that there was an opening, and I love the game of golf,” she said. “I didn’t want the girls to just get stuck with anybody or somebody that didn’t love and have a passion for the game.”
The group didn’t lose anyone from last year to graduation and added three talented freshmen to the mix.
Seniors Morgan Hazen and Emily Allen both qualified for sectionals last year, while freshmen Megan Moody, Shannon Spangler and Sydney Funk are way ahead of where most freshmen usually are talent wise.
Shannon Spangler is the younger sister of Katie and Emily Spangler, the last two Lady Falcons to advance to state.
“You can definitely tell that her dad and sisters have been teaching her,” Allen said. "Their swings are similar."
Spangler hit the second best score in her first varsity outing, and Weber-Jones expects her to remain one of the top hitters.
“I think Shannon has the potential to be a four-year state qualifier,” Weber-Jones said.
Moody was expected to be one of the best golfers on the team if she played, but the coaches thought she would ultimately choose volleyball instead.
During FCA Power Camp, Moody told Weber-Jones she would play volleyball. But on parent night, Moody told Percy she had changed her mind.
Upon hearing the news, Weber-Jones wasted no time making sure it stayed that way.
“As soon as the parent night was over, I called her quick and locked her in, and we’re good to go,” Weber–Jones said. “She’s athletic and could go any sport, but I’m glad she chose golf because it’s definitely her game. She’s already contributing to varsity matches.”
While Moody might return to volleyball at some point, she feels good about her decision to go with golf this year.
“It was definitely a big decision for me, because they’re both important sports to me,” Moody said. “But I think my family was definitely a big influence on me picking golf. They both play a lot of golf, so that was probably my main (reason).”
Moody currently hits in the top four spots on the team, making it two seniors and two freshmen as the expected top four.
The third freshman, Sydney Funk, is brand new to the sport but is looking like a natural according to Weber-Jones.
“She’s picking the game up pretty quick, so she’s going to be a force these next few years,” Weber-Jones said. “She’s a competitor. She’s not afraid.”
Funk hit a 72 her first time out and then looked spectacular while hitting in the 50s her second time.
“Everyone’s swings, Guy has those perfected already,” Weber-Jones said. “She was the only one who really had to work on the swing. And when you’re that quick at learning the swing, the sky is the limit with what you can accomplish.”
Juniors Emily Sommer, Sara Edgar and Danielle Sallee round out the rest of the squad and should all contribute pretty heavily.
“Those three can all play for the top six positions,” Weber-Jones said.
Hazen said the transition to coach Weber-Jones has been “pretty awesome” and said both Weber-Jones and Percy push them to do their best.
Luckily for Weber-Jones, Percy decided to stay on as a volunteer coach, to help with the development of the players, while Shannon Spangler's father, Mark Spangler, is also there as an assistant.
“Knowing that I have (them), I knew they’d make for a smooth transition,” Weber-Jones said. “Guy had a finely tuned machine to begin with. And then I knew we had some good senior leadership in Megan and Morgan, since they went to sectionals last year, and we have a great group of freshmen coming in and also the juniors. I’m blessed to have the talented golfers and volunteers that I have. It’s great to get back in the saddle again.”