By BRETT MARSHALL
It's an early Tuesday morning tee off at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course with former Garden City High School golf standout Abbey Campbell.
On a cool, crisp late July day, with hardly a breath of air, Campbell is playing her former home high school golf course for one of the few times this summer.
She's had a schedule of numerous golf tournaments in which to compete as she prepares to head off to college, where she will play for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Lady Kangaroos. One of her final events was the Kansas Women's Golf Association's Four State Championship in which Campbell competed and helped the team to a first-place finish.
"I'm really excited," Campbell said during an interview that morning. "Going into it, I have a good opportunity to get some playing time and be able to travel as long as I qualify."
Campbell was a key component of four golfers who helped the Lady Buffaloes to their most successful run in history.
She was part of the state runner-up team in 2011 when Mackenzie Thayer led the team by winning the individual state title, the first for a Lady Buffs' golfer. Thayer went on to receive a Division I scholarship to the University of Kansas, and now Campbell is following in her footsteps.
"I've seen a big change in her (Thayer's) game," Campbell said of her former teammate and close friend. "Her short game is amazing. I see how mature she is about it. I can a huge improvement. The first year is tough, and I know it will be that way for me, too. I'm glad she's close and that we will be able to meet up and do a lot of stuff. It's not that far from our campus to Lawrence."
During her senior year, a season that Campbell still calls below what she had expected of herself, she was runner-up to teammate Abbi Shaddix for Player of the Year honors in the Western Athletic Conference. She won two of the five WAC tourneys with Shaddix capturing the other three. It catapulted the Lady Buffs to their fifth consecutive league title.
"I don't think I had all that good of a senior year," Campbell said despite the fact she had a season best 71 at Wichita's Sim Park. "But the state tournament kinda made up for it."
At Wichita's Rolling Hills Country Club, Campbell fired a steady 6-over-par 78 to tie with Anne Willman of team champion Shawnee Mission East for the third-place medal. In a sudden death playoff, Campbell won with a par on the first playoff hole.
"My first hole earlier, I chipped in and everyone started screaming," Campbell said with a big smile. "I remember that. It was pretty cool."
At 5 feet, 9 inches, Campbell's physical stature allows her to hit towering tee shots and lofty irons that land softly on the greens. But, she readily admits, it is the short game where she will have to improve if she wants to compete well at the college level.
"I know that's the area I'll have to get better at," Campbell said. "I've worked really hard for a D-I scholarship. I told myself that if I was going anywhere it had to be a D-I school or else it was going somewhere else to college without playing golf. There were definitely some bumps in the road, but I got there."
Campbell, an outstanding student, plans to enroll in the nursing program at UMKC, and that had a big role in her decision to attend the school.
"That was a big thing I had to look at," Campbell said of nursing. "Some schools don't offer nursing schools and UMKC has a great medical program. I love helping people and I want to specialize in neo-natal. I love babies so I want to help them. It's something I really wanted to do, to be in the medical field without going to school for 12 years or so."
Of her four years of high school golf, Campbell said the road trips were the most memorable. On road out-of-town meet, the team gave a brief thought to taking the school van when they had asked coach Lloyd Tiffany for the keys to retrieve some personal items.
"We got to the edge of the parking lot and decided it wasn't a good idea," she said with a slight grin on her face. "Another time, we were out on Mackenzie's cart, and we were riding up the hill on No. 17 (Buffalo Dunes). The top came off and we all fell off. It's just one of a lot of good memories team-wise."
It's a long way from when Campbell was first introduced to the game at an early age.
"At the beginning, golf was just a game that you hit the ball around," she said. "It's all completely in your head. It's definitely a mind game. I've realized over the years that you can't get mad over one shot and keep your composure. There's many more shots to play, or it can ruin your entire round."
That maturity and work ethic will go a long way in determining how successful Campbell will be at the next level.
"I just want to go see how good I can be and let things fall their own way," Campbell said. "But I'm excited and I can't wait to start."