By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

The Syracuse girls golf team had never played at The Golf Club at Southwind before the Holcomb Invitational on teed off Thursday

When the 9-hole tournament concluded, though, the Lady Bulldogs will likely want to return.

Syracuse won the team title by four shots over Goodland, 208-212, and senior Kamie Rash, last year's Class 3-2-1A state runner-up, claimed medalist honors with a 42, six shots ahead of second-place finisher Natasha Hillman of Goodland. Maggie Hilbig of Lakin a shot back in third place. The top three were the only players to crack the 50-stroke barrier.

"We have improved since the beginning of the season and this will be good for the girls' confidence," Syracuse coach Rick Mathias said. "And that's with our No. 2 golfer not having a very good day. The others are really starting to improve and that's a good sign."

The day, though, belonged to Rash, who has come back from anterior cruciate ligament surgery last March after injuring the left knee in a basketball game at Elkhart. The season-ending injury also kept her out of the spring track season.

"The set-up here was really good and I like the golf course a lot," Rash said of Southwind. "I always want to play better, it's just my personality. Even though it's my first time here, I'm still not satisfied, but I love a good challenge and this certainly is one. It was a good day."

Rash began her front nine with three consecutive bogeys before making pars on the two par 3s that sandwiched a bogey on the par-5 fifth hole. She parred the seventh before suffering her only double bogey of the round on the 328-yard, par-4 eighth. She also bogeyed the par-3 ninth to finish off the round.

"My driver was pretty good today and I'm more consistent this year," Rash said. "My short game is a ton better and that's really helped."

During the summer months of rehabilitation when she couldn't do any extensive running or hitting full golf shots as her knee recovered, Rash spent many hours practicing her putting and chipping that contributed to her first place finish Thursday, a first place at Goodland in her first tournament of the fall and a fourth-place individual finish in the Garden City High School Invitational at Buffalo Dunes where she lost only to Class 5A and 6A golfers.

"I was just able to take advantage of the opportunity to work on my short game," Rash said. "I knew after last year that for me to improve, it would be the one major key to practice. It has helped."

See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.