CHAMPAIGN — Alaina Bowie is a measured high school junior. Her words rarely are lined with bold proclamations or noticeable exaggeration.
That calm, methodical approach extends to the golf course as well.
Even after Bowie placed third at last year's Class 1A state tournament and helped St. Thomas More to fourth as a team.
One might expect Bowie to talk about becoming a state champion at least once over the next two seasons, or about how STM — returning all but one of its scorers from the 2017 season finale — is a threat to finish even more strongly in the 1A showcase later this year.
Reality tells a different tale.
"There's nothing really set in stone right now, which I think is great," Bowie said. "A lot of girls have individual goals to improve on their scores. I think the goals are still open, and we're very eager to do well."
Under first-year coach Alan Dodds — the second-ever boss for this Sabers squad after Pat Hettermann stepped aside following 15 years of service — STM begins its march toward those various missions today when Bowie and pals travel to Windsor's Fox Prairie Golf Course for the season-opening Teutopolis Tournament.
Among the Sabers' foes will be Effingham St. Anthony, a program Dodds deems "probably the top Class A team in the state."
The event will provide an early test for STM, which lost three seniors and has just one upperclassman — Maeve Kirby — among its seven athletes.
"I think we have a few more young, energetic girls excited to play and hit some scores and have bigger goals for themselves, which is great," Bowie said. "They want to see improvement."
That's true for Bowie as well. She spent much of the summer honing her craft on the Prep Tour, darting all across Illinois and the Midwest at large working on her game.
For Bowie, expanding her golf reach was about more than becoming a better player.
"I guess it wasn't a need, but a want," she said. "I wanted to play different courses, meet different people and get the chance to play in different environments."
Speaking of change, the shift from Hettermann to Dodds is something Bowie and her teammates must adjust to as well.
As is her way, Bowie possessed a unique outlook on her new mentor.
"The way he runs things is different than Mrs. Hettermann, but not in a bad way," Bowie said. "It's like you're going into your fridge, and you don't know if you want an ice cream bar or a popsicle. Both sound great in their own way."
The reigning News-Gazette All-Area girls' Golfer of the Year also maintains an advanced outlook on her role as a club leader.
Her strong state showing as a sophomore, combined with the Sabers' relative youth in 2018, makes Bowie an easy candidate to take on an even bigger position of influence at STM.
But it's not that simple to Bowie.
"I think there are different types of leaders," she said. "You see people that take a leadership role as a CEO, but you also see people in the office supporting other people to do better.
"I think this is a team where there isn't a CEO — we're all coworkers working together to support each other."
Should the Sabers share that mindset, perhaps there's no telling how far they can go in 2018. Bowie knows one thing, though: She doesn't want these next few months to pass too quickly.
"Those two hours (on the first day of practice) felt like five minutes," Bowie said. "The season goes by in the blink of an eye. I love practice and meets and getting a chance to play the sport I love with girls I'm very close to."