By BRETT MARSHALL
When the fall high school golf season got under way in August, there was no doubt that Olathe Northwest's Audrey Judd and Garden City High's Abbi Shaddix would be two of the top golfers in Kansas Class 6A.
On Monday, the two seniors didn't disappoint as they garnered the top two individual spots of the Class 6A state tournament at Buffalo Dunes.
It was Judd who captured the top spot with a rock-solid 1-under-par 71 to successfully defend her state title, while it was Shaddix who reclaimed a ton full of pride by rallying on her final nine holes of a special high school career to capture runner-up honors with a 2-over-par 74.
"I was struggling the first nine," Shaddix said of her front side. "I wasn't hitting my tee shots very well and I couldn't make putts. I was kinda down and then we had a backup on the 10th hole. I got a little pep talk, and that seemed to get me going."
So instead of faltering on her closing nine holes — as she had a year ago at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita when she finished sixth — Shaddix got on a roll and had easy 2-putt birdies on the two par-5s, the 13th and 16th.
"Both the eagle putts were pretty close (10 feet and 8 feet), but that was my day," Shaddix said. "I couldn't get anything long to fall. On the back nine I was placing my tee shots better and I got my approach shots closer. Everything was just going better."
And while there might have normally been a disappointment of not winning, Shaddix left no doubt that getting second was a great way to see her prep career come to an end.
"I feel so good about it, especially finishing strong the way I did," Shaddix said. "Last year was really tough to take. So it was really nice to see that I could keep it together and come back."
And while her individual accomplishment will be something to relish in the future, the fact that the Lady Buffs also brought home a third-place team trophy was added icing on an already sweet cake for Shaddix, one of two seniors — the other Megan Steward — on the team.
"I think when the season started, they really weren't too sure about their scores counting," Shaddix said of her teammates. "But they do count, and I think it finally made them aware that for us to do well, they were going to have to play better. And they did. Boy, they made a big statement today and it just makes today so good."
For Judd, capping off her senior year with a repeat of the individual title was bittersweet.
"Not so much about the winning, but the fact that it's my last high school tournament," Judd said.
She began her round with a birdie on the opening par-5. When she reached the ninth hole, she was even par and that's where her game ramped up.
Judd birdied the ninth, 10th and 11th holes to drop to 3-under, and take a commanding lead over Maize's Taelyn Entriken (a 75 finish, good for third).
"That first birdie helped me settle down and get calm," Judd said. "From there the round went smoothly. The birdies — it just seemed like the putts were rolling in. From there I just tried to keep my head in the game and do my best."
Despite bogeys on the final two holes, the University of Nebraska-bound Judd was satisfied with her final year.
"Just knowing that putting in all the hard work paid off is satisfying," Judd said. "I tried to remember who I am and how hard I had prepared for this."
And for Shaddix, finishing strong was something that she will take with her when she heads off to a college yet to be determined.
"I've grown a lot in learning how to finish off rounds and handle things better," Shaddix said, referring to a four-over-par finish in the final three holes at the 2012 state tournament. "You can let those things consume you, but you can learn from them and then have that experience work for you. That's why I'm very happy with the way I finished today."