Lillie Lamont

Vinton-Shellsburg senior Lillie Lamont doesn’t yet know whether her final season with the golf team will take place amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Monday, March 16, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended for school districts to close for four weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19. As the state waits out these 28 days, Vinton Newspapers will tell the stories of high school seniors in our coverage area affected by the suspension of their favorite spring activities.

Lillie Lamont doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t golfing. Her mother, Tiffnie, and father, Curtis, raised her on the sport. Pictures of a 4-year-old Lillie holding a plastic golf club still reside at the Lamont household.

“I kind of always knew that I would be on the golf team in high school,” she said. “It’s something my family has done together for fun forever.”

Lamont has been with the Vinton-Shellsburg golf team since she got into high school. She qualified as an individual and as part of the team for state competition as a freshman. As a junior, she was crowned as the individual WaMaC champion during conference play but fell just shy of advancing to state. This year – her senior year – was supposed to be when she returned to the pinnacle of high school golf.

However, with the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 hitting Benton County, her senior season for Vinton-Shellsburg is in jeopardy. The Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union postponed all spring sports until at least mid-April and possibly later. With conference tournaments set to begin in early May, it puts a tight window on any hope of a season getting played. Lamont said the news was difficult to take in.

“It honestly felt like a dream,” she said. “It still just feels like it’s been a long weekend, and I’m still going to go back to school, and everything’s going to be the same. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.”

Instead, Lamont had to take action. Starting with her daily planner, she had to cross out all upcoming golf meets until at least April 10 when the IGHSAU makes its decision on the rest of the spring sports season. Then, she had to face the real-world consequences of it all. For Lamont, that meant spending time around medical professionals in her role as a certified nursing assistant at Virginia Gay Hospital. That’s where Lamont first found out about Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ recommendation that schools close for four weeks. Lamont had heard about the coronavirus spreading across the world, but the impact she felt from the press conference had a different ring to it.

“I feel like, at the beginning of [the pandemic], I was kind of in a bubble,” she said. “It is scary, but it was just like, you saw it everywhere. But I didn’t really think it was ever going to be that serious until they said they were canceling colleges.”

Obviously, Lamont has a bit more to worry about with working at the hospital than the potential of her missing golf season. However, that hasn’t stopped her, her teammates and her coach from staying in contact about everything from the virus to sports. Head coach Janet Woodhouse has kept the team in the loop via group text, encouraging players on both the boys’ and girls’ teams to take advantage of their free opportunities to hit the courses at the Vinton Country Club and Wildcat Golf Course. Lamont said that while the weather hasn’t been ideal for golf this week, she’s hopeful to get out to the links in the upcoming days.

“Even if we don’t end up going back, I want to practice,” she said. “I just enjoy golf, and I love doing it for fun... golf is definitely my favorite sport, so I would love to be able to go back to some extent, even if it’s just a couple of meets or just a chance to qualify for state. I would be so thankful for that.”

During her time away from the course, Lamont said she has taken up reading more than she usually does. Outside of working more hours at the hospital, she’s reading ‘The Giver,’ a novel given to her by a coworker. Lamont said she enjoys reading a little bit more now than before without the obligation to do so.

Still, Lamont knows there’s a real chance she doesn’t get to compete in certain scenarios. If the worst should happen, she wants younger athletes across all sports to not take the time they have with their respective teams and coaches for granted.

“They should really cherish their next year and however many seasons they get to enjoy,” she said. “Looking back, high school is just a really cool time that you need to do that. A lot of people don’t get those opportunities.”

However the season – or the lack of one – turns out, Lamont is prepared to look back on a successful golf career without any regrets.

“I just have to look at it from a positive light,” she said. “I’ve had so many great experiences over the past three years of golf, and I know that golf is a sport that can be lifelong. It doesn’t end here for me. I can always go out and play with my family for the rest of my life.”