Playing the right tune
Bluejays claim individual, team titles at regional golf.
By BRETT MARSHALL
SYRACUSE — There's no secret to success when playing golf at Tamarisk Golf Course.
Hit it in the fairway, get it on the smallish greens and then have a deft putting touch.
Easier said than done, and that was what met the 33 golfers who competed here Monday in the Class 3-2-1A girls regional golf tournament.
Nobody came away unscathed, but Cimarron's Jessica Ast handled the difficult, tight fairways of Tamarisk better than the rest of the field, surviving high wind from the south (25-30 mph, gusts to 35 mph and then an about face at the end of the round with wind blowing at a steady 25 mph and gusting to 32 mph).
The Lady Bluejay shot a 93 to edge Syracuse's Kiah Rash and Kyla Bandel of St. Francis by one shot that paved the way for her team to capture first place with a 420 total, and earn the top spot into next Monday's state tournament, which will be played at The Golf Club at Southwind in Garden City.
Cimarron's total was well in front of runner-up Lakin's 436, while Holcomb survived a tiebreaker with host Syracuse to claim the final team berth into the state tournament when the fifth score had to be used to break the tie after both teams finished at 463.
Holcomb's Vanessa Flores shot a 161, while Syracuse's Kalie Brownlee was at 174.
The biggest setback for the host Lady Bulldogs came when junior Sydney Brown could not play due to an injury to her right wrist that was sustained in the Lakin Invitational just nine days earlier. Brown, who was third at the state tournament a year ago, said there was a possible fracture and that another medical opinion would be obtained later this week. Certainly her absence, more than anything else, impacted the outcome of Monday's qualifying event.
But Monday was as much about redemption for Ast, who just four days earlier at the Syracuse Invitational on the same course shot a 113. As she described it best, Ast tried to forget about what had transpired on Thursday.
"I was just so shaky last Thursday," Ast said of her highest score of the season. "I just told myself today that what happened Thursday was over and that I'd turn it around. I just wanted to try and do my best and it paid off. I was more confident today."
When consistency was a rare factor on another blustery day in western Kansas, Ast managed to shoot nines of 45-48, while Rash had 48-46 and Bandel had 49-45.
"It was just so windy, but something worked on different holes today," Ast said of her round. "I just tried to avoid big numbers and I was able to do that except for a few holes. It's a great feeling. We're excited to be playing at Southwind. It's close to home. We know it will be a tough, long course. Today, we just tried to stay positive and help each other out."
For Lakin coach Travis McAtee, it was all about getting his players to shoot scores relatively close to each other. And for the most part, that strategy was successful. McKayla Hendrix was fourth with a 99, while Jenna Garcia was fifth at 103 and Emily Eggleston eighth at 106, after winning a playoff from Cimarron's Rebecca Dupree.
Cimarron's Morgan Ediger won a playoff for sixth place at 105 with Laura Geven of Syracuse, while Olivia Ortega of Holcomb rounded out the top 10 individuals with a 107.
McAtee was relieved that his team was able to secure a spot in the state tournament since the Lady Broncs are serving as the host school.
"That's the battle, the stepping stone to get to state," McAtee said of the tough conditions on Monday. "We met one of our goals. I would've liked to have won, but Cimarron was the better team today. We had a solid second, had three medalists and now we look forward the state."
Holcomb coach Scott Stegman also knew his team had dodged the proverbial bullet with Syracuse's Brown out of the lineup.
"I think we all feel badly for Sydney, because she's one of the better players in our area," Stegman said. "But we can't control those things, and the girls came out and tried their best. The scores weren't very good, but we'll try to regroup and get ready for Southwind. We certainly will have to play better next week if we want a good finish."
And for veteran Syracuse coach, it left an empty feeling as the two-time defending state champion Lady Bulldogs will only be represented individually by Rash and Geven.
"It's one of those things that you have no control over," Mathias said. "We knew it would be tough without Sydney in the lineup. I've told the girls all season that you never know when your score is going to be needed, and today we needed the scores of all five of the girls and we didn't get what we needed."