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RAF LAKENHEATH — Part of the fun of Defense Department schools sports programs has to be the traveling. What other school system has students jetting down to Germany or Italy to compete?

But things have changed a bit for the Lakenheath High School golf team. Cost considerations have left the 20-odd team members with much less mobility this year when it comes to competing at schools outside of the isle.

“This is the first year we haven’t gone to Germany, or hosted here,” Coach Otis McCloskey said last week.

Instead, top team members will be traveling to Rota, Spain, this month for a tournament with another geographically isolated team, and only the top tier will go to the European tournament in Germany next month.

“Last year we went down to Germany on a three-day trip, and it’s extremely expensive for DODDS,” McCloskey said.

“It’s a shame,” said Kai Pope, a senior who has played on the team all four years.

Having the whole team travel for the games enhances the experience and builds camaraderie, Pope said.

The new limitations mean less play against other DODDS-Europe students and on other courses, he said.

“At the same time, golf’s unique and you’re playing against the course,” said Pope, who is considering playing golf at the college level back in the States next year.

Still, students said there’s plenty to like about being on the golf team.

Last week, the team held their own qualifying tournament at the Lakenheath golf course. They teed off around noon and got to spend the whole afternoon on the links and out of the classroom.

“It takes a long time to do,” said Julie Fose, a sophomore.

The team scores were based on something called the “modified Stableford format,” McCloskey said.

Instead of players being scored based on number of strokes, they receive three points if they make par, two points for a bogey, and one point for a double bogey, he said.

“If they score more than a double bogey on a hole, they pick up the ball at that point,” McCloskey said.

Despite the changes to the team this year, McCloskey said that golf’s lessons are timeless.

For one, it teaches a bit of honesty and integrity.

“When a young guy or gal plays golf, they are their own official,” he said. “There’s no referee out with them. When they do something against the rules they have to call the penalty against themselves. There are few if any (other) sports like that.”

And it’s a game they can take with them, even when they are no longer a Lakenheath Lancer, he said.

“They can play it almost forever,” he said. “It’s a really good lifelong sport for them.”

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