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Jackson golf’s Julia Schlitt already making a name for herself

Jackson sophomore Julia Schlitt helped lead the Indians girls golf program its third-ever state plaque this fall. She also qualified for state with the team as a freshman. Submitted photos

Even though she’s only been golfing competitively for around four years now, Jackson sophomore Julia Schlitt has become arguably the best high school player on any course in Southeast Missouri during the short span.

In just her sophomore campaign, the now two-time state qualifier helped the Indians bring home their third-ever state plaque as they took fourth in Class 4 this fall. This was after Jackson failed to place in the top two in its district as a team, but luckily each Indian like Schlitt qualified for state individually.

In only her second trip to the state tournament, Julia placed in the top 30 with a 27th-place finish by posting a two-day, 18-hole score of 164 (82, 82). This was 20 points better than Schlitt’s first state appearance when she scored a 184 (94, 90) to take 39th out of 83 as a freshman for Jackson to take sixth place in Missouri’s top classification.

“It’s definitely crazy to think about — I never ever thought I’d be playing golf because I used to be a swimmer,” Schlitt laughed. “Going from sixth to fourth place — because we weren’t even supposed to go as a team — was shocking to everyone because we qualified individually. I think it shows off all our hard work and that it’s not just a team sport. You have to focus on yourself and hope the best for the team.”

Schlitt’s final score at state this season was also just two strokes behind Indiana State commit and fellow Indian senior Alana Gilbert, who took 19th place with a score of 162 (75, 87) in her final state tournament. Gilbert ended her career as a three-time state qualifier as she helped Jackson take third place in Class 4 her sophomore year.

Like Schlitt, Alana’s playing career also hasn’t been a long one as she started six years ago but is now in line to be a Division-I golfer. Schlitt said Gilbert has been quite the mentor and friend ever since she’s been involved with the program as a manager back when she was in middle school.

“She’d take me out and say, ‘We’ve gotta work on it!’ She’s definitely pushed me the most I’d say,” Schlitt said. “I’m going to have to start leading the younger ones, so I’m definitely excited to get the team out there this summer and rebuild since we’re losing three seniors.”

Gilbert will be the third Indian golfer in program history to advance to the D-I level as 2022 graduates Ella Overstreet (Southern Illinois) and Kaydi Rhodes (Tennessee Tech) are currently in college. Schlitt, who will more than likely play golf collegiately as well, is on pace to become Jackson’s second four-time state qualifier outside of Overstreet.

“They are definitely my motivation because I remember when Alana was a sophomore and would be out there all day,” Julia recalled. “Ella Overstreet and Kaydi Rhodes would take her out, so that’s what she’s done with me ever since I was in eighth grade.

“I was the manager when I was in seventh and eighth grade, so I saw how they practiced, and I would go out there and do those drills. My dad would drop me off in the morning and pick me up at night, and he’d say, ‘Work on whatever you need to work on. You do you.’ That’s what I’d do every day during the summer.”

Schlitt said being a part of this program now as a golfer and not just a manager means the world to her. Of course, she isn’t only just a player since she’s also helping the team continue its success and hopefully reach new heights.

Julia is also on pace to become the program’s first all-state medalist since the 2021 season when Jackson took third as a team in Class 4. Both Rhodes and Overstreet earned all-state that season by finishing in fifth at 152 (75, 77) and 15th place at 161 (80, 81), respectively.

“I remember watching them at state in seventh and eighth grade and being like, ‘I really want to be like them,’ Schlitt recalled. “Now it’s coming true, so it’s been a dream come true.”

One way that Julia has separated herself from the competition is the success she has on the green. “I love putting — my favorite part is getting the ball on the green. I want to putt all day,” Schlitt expressed.

Not only has this led her to be a two-time state qualifier and two-time all-district medalist, but Schlitt was also invited to play in the Junior National Championship last month in Orlando, Florida.

“I was invited to play there by one of my summer leagues,” Schlitt said. “My parents travel with me everywhere and sign me up for every tournament they can find, so I had good enough stats to be in it. One day I was sitting in school and got an email that I was invited to play in the national championship.

“I sent it to my mom, and she was like, ‘Do you think it’s real?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I think it’s real — I think so,’” Julia laughed. “They signed me up and were like, ‘Yep, we’ll go to Florida!’ My whole family went with me and it was really special.”

While she didn’t finish as high as she would’ve liked, Julia said playing in this type of tournament has only motivated her to work even more on her game. It also gave her a good taste of the type of talent she’ll continue to see at the state tournament and eventually in college.

“Nerves definitely got to me, and I kind of had some bad rounds, but it was just completely different than it is up here,” Julia said. “I’m playing the same girls throughout the season and summer, and we get down there and it’s like, ‘This is the real deal. These girls are going to be SEC schools.’ To play with them was such an honor because they’d drive it so far.

“It motivated me seeing how much strength training they do and made me realize, ‘You can do it. You just have to put in the time. You can definitely do it.’”

Schlitt has become as successful of a golfer as she is today because of all the continuous work she puts into the sport. In fact, Julia said she tries to do something to improve her game every single day of the week.

“It could be workouts or speed control, just going to hit, putting or playing,” Schlitt explained. “I probably play 18 holes three times a week, but with this cold weather, it’s definitely harder to do that. Therefore, I’ll work on stuff inside with workouts and watch what I’m eating.”

Things that Julia is focusing on this offseason is getting more range on her drive by getting stronger in order to then have shorter shots to get herself into the green.

Schlitt was first introduced to the sport by her older brothers, who both also played at Jackson. Funny enough, Julia said she “hated to go” to anything golf related since she didn’t like the sport at first.

However, one of Schlitt’s uncle is also a golfer, and he actually started motivating her to start playing. One of Julia’s brothers eventually took her to the driving range, where she realized she might like the sport after all.

“I started hitting and went, ‘Hmm, this isn’t that bad,’ so then it just started from there,” Schlitt said. “The feeling of being on a team with my friends is a big part of my love for the sport. Without my teammates, I would definitely not like it as much.”

Julia Schlitt was invited to and competed in the 2023 Junior National Championships in Orlando last month.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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