By BRETT MARSHALL
It was listed on the fall schedule as the Garden City Invitational.
Monday, the Garden City High School girls golf team made sure that the name truly fit.
The Lady Buffaloes, showing the signs of the kind of team coach Lloyd Tiffany has envisioned, shot a 336 to blast away the 12-team field at Buffalo Dunes, including finishing a whopping 40 strokes ahead of runner-up and Western Athletic Conference rival Hays.
"It was an awfully strong showing," Tiffany said of his team's performance that came within four shots of the school's all-time record in an 18-hole event (332 at Sim Park Golf Course in Wichita in 2003). "I'm pleased with that as I think the girls just gain more confidence all the time. Because they're dedicated and they love the game, they continue to want to be better."
If there were any surprises at all, it was not in the fact that junior Mackenzie Thayer brought home medalist honors with a 77. It was the fact that sophomore Abbey Campbell, with an 80, and freshman Abbi Shaddix, with an 84, finished in second and third in the individual competition.
"Having the top three individuals is always great," Tiffany said. "Mackenzie, we just have come to expect it every time she goes out. I thought (Campbell) had a breakout round for her career. She has worked so hard over the summer and I said all along from since she was a freshman that she had a great career in front of her. And I know (Shaddix) was disappointed with her back nine (44 after a 40), but that's still a strong round of golf on a tough course."
While Thayer's day was consistent with nines of 38-39, Campbell rallied with a one-over 37 on the incoming nine after opening with a 43.
"I got off to a good start with a par, but then made an 8 on my second hole (the course's first, a par 5)," Campbell said. "I just shrugged it off and went on. You just have to keep going."
Campbell notched two important birdies in her round, both par four's, where she hit a wedge to within 12 feet on the third hole and to four feet on the 12th and then canned both putts.
"I've really worked on my putting and chipping a lot over the past week," Campbell said. "This feels great and I just hope to keep doing it."
Thayer, the two-time WAC player of the year, said she was just glad to get back into the competitive part of golf. A schedule change with the Dodge City Invitational (moved back one week to Thursday) caused the Lady Buffs to have two weeks in between tournaments.
"It felt like forever since we last played," said the GCHS standout. "I played pretty good, I hit it better than I have in the last one and a half months. Now I just need to work on my short game, the putting, to put more pieces of the game together."
Thayer had four bogeys and two birdies on her front nine scorecard and then came home on the back with four bogeys and a single birdie.
"It was good to get out there and have a solid day," Thayer said. "We just want to keep working to get better. People, in general, expected us to do well and we just wanted to treat it as another day."
Thayer said having Campbell and Shaddix coming in with their lowest high school competitive rounds shows that the team is gaining confidence.
"Abbey's come a long way since she started practicing and it's so cool to see her have such a good day," Thayer said of Campbell. "And then having the other Abbi (Shaddix) shooting so well, the more the merrier."
While the scores may not indicate where they would like, Tiffany said that junior Anna Robinson (95) and senior Taylor Morrow (96) still finished among the top 10 individuals. Sophomore Audrey Gerber, playing No. 6, had her best varsity score at 106.
"Anna struck the ball well, but just didn't score well and Taylor struggled on the greens some today," Tiffany said. "It just shows that if somebody has a litte bit of an off day, there are others to pick them up. And I think Audrey is just now starting to show that she has some promise down the road."
And while the state tournament at Manhattan Country Club is still more than a month away, Campbell and her teammates, as well as their coach, know where the final prize awaits.
"We want to go and win the state, that's our goal," Campbell said. "It's a hard goal, but that's what we hope to do."
For Tiffany, it's taking one tournament at a time and seeing improvement. Those two are what is uppermost in his mind.
"There are five or six schools back east that are good," Tiffany said. "Right now, out here, we're competing against ourselves but these girls are highly motivated. I'm very happy with the way they've approached the season."
Senior Amy Stegman of Holcomb and junior Katelyn Marlin of Sublette shot 93s to share sixth place in the individual standings. Both will be among the favorites when it comes to regional tournaments next month in their respective classes.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.