JACKSON TWP — Lihini Ranaweera may be a freshman at Seneca Valley, but she is not a newcomer to the sport of golf.
Picking up the game from her father at just five years old, she honed her skills in youth tournaments such as the US Kids and Hurricane Junior golf tours.
She recently placed in the top 20 in a US Kids World tour event in North Carolina.
“I knew she was coming to the high school team and had a chance to be really good,” said SV girls coach Kevin Wildrick, “but it wasn't until our first few practices that I realized how consistent she is.”
How consistent? Ranaweera leads the Raiders with a 37.7 average per nine holes. Her recent 35 in a match against Butler broke a program individual record at Connoquenessing Country Club, the Raiders' home course.
She also carded a 36 in a victory against Moon, helping the Raiders set a new team standard for a single match with 173 strokes. The previous record was 179 set in 2010.
“Everybody on the team, from the coaches to the other players, has been nothing but kind to me,” said Ranaweera. “It's great to see the whole team get excited after we win or like when we found out we made the team playoffs.”
That's the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs, a level Wildrick believes no previous Raiders' team has ever reached.
“I have not seen anything in our program's records about a girls golf team getting there,” he said.
The current squad got to the postseason by placing second in Section 1 with an 8-2 record. The team semifinal round was slated Monday of this week at Connoquenessing, something Wildrick referred to as “a nice coincidence.”
This Thursday, Ranaweera will be competing in the WPIAL 3A individual finals at Oakmont Country Club.
She has a lot on her plate, but also possesses the kind of game that gives her a strong shot at doing well against other top golfers in the district.
Wildrick said Ranaweera's drives are 20 to 30 yards shorter than most of her peers.
“I know I have to make up for that and I'm pretty confident in my short game,” she said. “My goals are to get to states and sometime over the next few years place at states and maybe even win there.”
Other top averages for the Raiders include Madison Sharek (46.4), Aana Winland (49.3) and Eden Rae (50).