Campbell 3rd, Shaddix 6th propel Lady Buffs at state.
Editor's Note: This is the sixth in a series of 10 stories counting down The Telegram's top 10 sports stories of 2012 as chosen by The Telegram staff.
By BRETT MARSHALL
When the 2012 high school golf season began in August, the Garden City High School girls team was missing three players off its 2011 Class 6A state runner-up team — two to graduation and one to an ACL injury that sidelined the golfer for the entire fall.
The leadership was in the hands of new coach Melinda Base and its remaining two standouts — senior Abbey Campbell and junior Abbi Shaddix.
The two Lady Buffs didn't disappoint, as they capped off their stellar seasons by placing third and sixth, respectively, at the Class 6A state tournament in mid-October at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita.
Those performances helped the relatively inexperienced Buffs to a fifth-place team finish, marking the third consecutive top 10 team finish for the GCHS program.
Shaddix and Campbell had traded winning many of the fall events, specifically the five Western Athletic Conference events in which Shaddix won three and Campbell two to help the Lady Buffs capture their fourth straight WAC team title.
By the narrowest of margins, Shaddix won the WAC Player of the Year award, following in the steps of four-time winner Mackenzie Thayer. Thayer had also won the 2011 6A state title, the first such GCHS girls player to accomplish the feat.
Shaddix also put herself in the state record book earlier in the season when she shot a 6-under-par 66 at Sim Park Golf Course in Wichita, tying the all-time lowest 18-hole round for a high school girls golfer. She followed it up the next day in Hutchinson with a 69, marking one of the few times in state history that a girl had produced sub-70 rounds in back-to-back tournaments.
At the state tourney, Shaddix was leading the event after 9 holes, but struggled coming in on the final four holes before finishing with an 80 and tying for sixth. Campbell, meanwhile, had opened with a 38 on the front nine and shot a 40 on the tougher back nine, and finished tied for third with Anne Willman of team champ Shawnee Mission East.
Campbell made par on the first playoff hole when Willman 3-putted from short range.
"I was just one off second, and it just makes me rethink shots that I could've played better," Campbell said after her playoff win. "I hit the ball the best I have all year, but I just couldn't get the feel of these greens. It wasn't so much the short putts, but it was the lag putts that I couldn't get close and that put pressure on the shorter putts."
For the Buffs' first-year coach, the state performance by her top two players simply reflected the steady play that they had produced all season.
"I couldn't be more proud of the girls," said Base. "I can't say enough about how hard the girls worked through the season. Abbey and Abbi, I'm sure they feel there's shots left out there, but they worked their tails off to get where they are."
Considering the graduation losses from the year before and the ACL injury to Audrey Gerber, the remainder of the team was comprised of junior Megan Steward, sophomore Lindsay Bradstreet, and freshmen Hannah Leiker and Kendra Martin.
"I think these girls did a remarkable job," Base said. "These girls came a long way this season. They're excited about the game. They're disappointed they didn't play better, but I think they have improved so much. They're a great group and I think they'll just keep getting better."
For Shaddix, she knows she'll have one more year to take a run at a state championship, and she intends to take the state meet as another step in her learning experience.
"This will make me stronger and there's going to be another day," Shaddix said after her state round. "I improved so much this year, and I'm excited for the future."
By November, Campbell had made her decision on college plans and signed an NCAA Division I letter-of-intent to play at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Thayer had signed the previous year to play at the University of Kansas.