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Lunning sisters take similar path to grow golf game
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Lunning sisters take similar path to grow golf game


Thea Lunning takes it as a compliment.

She was a top-20 golfer at the Class 4A state tournament her final two years as a student-athlete at Mason City, then proceeded to be a top golfer for North Iowa Area Community College.

That path is what younger sister, Sophie, is looking to accomplish. Right now, she's halfway there.

Sophie has signed to play golf at NIACC under head coach Chris Frenz in the upcoming 2021-22 academic year, following the same path Thea did.

"I've always tried to set a good example," Thea said. "I hope she has a good experience at NIACC. She could see that I enjoyed it a lot."

It was in the plans for Sophie to follow in her sisters footsteps. She saw the success she had at the collegiate level and wanted to duplicate it.

"After I knew she was going to sign to play at NIACC, I wanted to do that as well," Sophie said.

Yet, Frenz is going to make sure he doesn't set expectations of Sophie that are unrealistic. It won't be the first time he has coached siblings.

"I think she likes how we develop the mental part of the game," Frenz said. "I don't even try to talk about the other person. It's one of those things where you can't compare; they are their own person."

The Lunnings can credit their exposure to the game of golf from their father, Marc. He would take them to the course when they were little and showed them the ropes.

It wasn't until eighth grade and high school when Thea and Sophie – separated by two years – started to take it seriously.

"I liked the competition and I really enjoyed that Mason City was a 4A school so I could compete with girls from bigger schools on very nice courses," Thea said.

For many tournaments and other meets when Thea was a senior and Sophie was a sophomore for Mason City, they would be in the same pairing.

It brought out the best in each other.

"It was really fun having her around," Sophie said. "She's pushed me to be a better golfer."

As the COVID-19 pandemic wiped away their respective 2020 spring seasons, both have made up for lost time in 2021.

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In Thea's case, she finished inside the top-5 in the NJCAA Region XI golf tournament at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny over the weekend.

It qualified her for the National Tournament, slated for May 10-13 in Ormond Beach, Florida, at the Plantation Bay Golf Course.

"I can't wait," Thea said. "I think that my golf game as come a long ways. Mentally, I'm pretty strong and I can be consistent. Hopefully that shows."

The performance – shooting an 87 followed by an 82 for the 36-hole tournament – did not come to the surprise of Frenz.

"She's one of those people that is always out there, if not everyday virtually everyday, during the summer and continues to work on her game all the time," he said. "She really puts in the time and effort."

Sophie has played four rounds of competitive golf up to this point. Three of them have been 9-hole meets, where her average is a team-best 47. The one 18-hole tournament was a 104, the second best behind fellow senior and NIACC recruit Alyssa Alert.

Mohawks head coach Matt Evans sees a lot of similarities in the sisters' games. What stands out, in his mind, is the work ethic Thea has.

He's hopeful it'll rub off on Sophie when her prep career has concluded.

"They're dedicated to their craft," Evans said. "I think if she works that hard as well, she could be equally as successful. I've noticed if they're playing in college, that amps it up a bit."

Thea will head to Pella, Iowa, and use her additional years of eligibility as a member of Central College's program; Sophie will stay in town to begin her freshman season at NIACC.

It'll be the first time they have been apart for an extended period of time.

"It'll be a big change," Thea said. "There are a lot of good people at NIACC and Central. And, we'll still talk all the time."

For now, they'll appreciate their time together for the reminder of the spring and summer. Both will still get to practice together at Mason City Country Club.

And, potentially, show out their competitive sides.

"We like to compete," Sophie said. "It's always fun competition. It's nice to have someone to compete with."

Coaching is something Sophie wouldn't mind pursuing once her academic career is complete. She never wants to leave the sport.

"I think it would be super fun to be an assistant golf coach," she said.

Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Follow him on Twitter at @Zach_Martin95. 


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