LIBERTY TWP. — Joe Wilson IV is an experienced golfer even as a freshman, but going into his first high school state tournament there’s still nothing more comforting than knowing he can look across the fairway and find older sister Bree Wilson doing exactly what he is.
The two siblings will be competing with the Lakota East boys and girls golf teams in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I state tournament Friday and Saturday at Ohio State University.
Bree, a senior, qualified along with her team for a second straight year, thanks to a third-place finish for the Thunderhawks at the district tournament. Joe is playing with the district champion East boys team that qualified for a third consecutive time. The boys compete on the Scarlet course and the girls on the Gray course.
WEEK 9 FOOTBALL COVERAGE
“I’ve played competitive golf for so long, I don’t think I’ll be nervous, but it definitely helps knowing when I’m on that fairway or out on the greens, I can look up and see my sister’s smile,” Joe said. “It’s so helpful to feel that support.”
Bree was determined to get back to state this year, her final season of high school golf, but getting to go with her brother to his first one just makes it that much more special.
She departs with a Greater Miami Conference medalist honor and shot her best postseason score at districts with a 79 to help the Hawks earn the last qualifying spot.
“It’s amazing,” Bree said. “I knew going into districts, ‘I’ve got to make it to state my senior year. I can’t miss out.’ I did everything I could and we made it as a team, and that’s such a rewarding experience. It’s especially special this year being my last year and Joe’s first year. The fact we get to go together is pretty awesome.”
Joe has been to state multiple times before. His dad, Joe Wilson III, is an assistant coach at East, so Joe (often just called “Quatro” by his team) tagged along during the Hawks’ previous two trips to state, and his first time going was in 2012 when his dad was coaching at Mason.
He enjoyed being able to watch Bree compete last year (she tied for 30th and her East team was seventh), but now he’s asking her advice for his own experience.
“I’ve had the experience as someone watching, but it’s cool to pick Bree’s brain on what to expect as a player and what the feeling is going to be like as a player going there the first time,” Joe said.
The tournament will be interesting for their parents.
Last year, Joe Wilson III followed Bree and was able to look over and check on the boys players, as the Gray course weaves around the Scarlet course. This year, he will start out following his son, while his wife stays with Bree, but both plan to stick with Bree on Saturday as much as possible — unless the boys are in contention for the title, which could throw a wrinkle into their hopes to see her final nine holes.
“Golf has been a part of our lives since Joe and Bree could walk,” Joe Wilson III said. “As a mom and dad, this is unbelievable. It’s as good as it gets for high school sports. Doing it together makes it so special. We’re proud of both of them. They are great athletic individuals and great students, and we’ve been very blessed with their coaching at Lakota. We’re grinning ear to ear. This is such a special time for our family.”
Joe and Bree both said they are “best friends on and off the course,” but they are about as competitive as it gets for sibling rivalries.
They will race to the car or down the stairs at home, hold best-drive competitions in golf and “75 percent of the time it’s friendly,” Joe said.
Bree said it’s going to be hard leaving Joe behind when she goes off to college next year. She’s still deciding between two schools, but neither one is local. In the meantime, she just wants to finish out her high school career strong.
“It’s definitely been a journey with a lot of highs and a lot of lows,” Bree said. “Looking back from my freshman year, not just my swing, I was shooting really high numbers. To be my senior year and shooting even par scores and being the GMC champ is amazing.”
That GMC championship has given Bree some added confidence this postseason, East girls coach Ali Green said.
Bree averaged 39.5 per nine holes this season, ranking third in the conference, but shot a 148 at the GMC tournament, which was 13 strokes better than her state tournament score last year.
“It was her lowest round ever in a tournament, so being able to do that and win an event, she’s confident in her game, and she should be,” Green said, noting Bree is an all-around strong player with an especially strong game off the tee.
Hawks boys coach Jeff Combs called Joe “a chip off the old block” — a lot like his dad. He had a 39.9 average this season and was a first-team All-GMC player, helping the Hawks to their fifth straight conference title.
“What makes him special is he’s kind of old school in the shots he can hit around the green,” Combs said. “His love of the game and how much time he puts into it and loves it reminds me of an old-school player. He lives the game 24/7. He really has no weaknesses, but his short game is what impresses me the most.”
Joe hopes to help the East boys contend for the title this weekend. Bree believes the girls have a chance at a better finish this year too.
Whatever happens, they will both be supporting one another until the last shot.
“They are both great kids and very close from what I can tell,” Green said. “I think Joe is that little brother that looks up to his big sister, but Bree learns a lot from Joe because both their games are so different they can learn from each other. And more importantly, they encourage each other.”
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