If a coach had]success as a player, it would seem plausible that they would have a good idea how to bring along their own respective players to make them into better competitors.
Trent Specht has assumed that role for the 2018 girls golf season, taking the reins of the Garden City High School team, replacing Jacob Waller, who resigned at the end of the boys season in the spring of this year.
Specht, a graduate of Southwestern Heights High School and a junior college and four-year player himself, had previously been the head girls coach at Holcomb High School. He also is a past champion of the Garden City Men's City Championship and has made match play at the Kansas Amateur Championship.
Now, he’s ascended to the Class 6A level, and in his first season with the Buffs, he has just the minimum six players on his roster. No reserves waiting in case of injury or illness this season. Six players compete, the best four scores count.
The Buffs will begin their 2018 fall campaign on Monday with the Hays Invitational, teeing off at 1 p.m. at Smoky Hill Country Club.
“I’m recruiting hard for next year, and I know of three incoming freshmen who will be out then,” Specht said in explaining how he wants to visit with local middle school physical education teachers to recruit golfers for future seasons. “If we can get them interested early, it’s a built-in way to have a successful program.”
The Buffs return three players from last year’s seventh-place team at the Class 6A state tournament in Dodge City. Headlining that group is junior Alyssa McMillen, who shot an 83 at Mariah Hills Golf Course to place ninth individually, while the Buffs had a four-person score of 379 en route to the seventh-place standing.
“I really don’t know too much about the other WAC (Western Athletic Conference) teams right now,” Specht said. “I think that maybe Hays, Dodge City and Liberal may be down some, and I’m just not sure about Great Bend.”
McMillen is joined by returner Elena Lemke, a senior who shot a 93 and tied for 29th at the state tourney.
Specht is upbeat when discussing his top two players and their improvement from a year ago.
“The biggest thing for Alyssa was her summer work, playing tournaments, but also practicing and she’s become more consistent now," he said. "She’s making the turn in that when she has a bad round, it’s a good round and when it’s a good round, it’s a great round.”
Specht has been working with Lemke on changing some components of her golf swing and short game, and says the hard work is paying off.
“We’ve tightened up things with her short game and she has a lot more confidence now,” Specht said of Lemke.
The only other varsity returner is junior Grace Yi, who competed at state but struggled to a 134 and 85th-place finish.
“Grace is making some significant swing changes, so I think we’ll see the fruits of that by mid-season and later,” Specht said. “I think she’ll become a solid third score for us, but I think it will be more down the road than at the beginning.”
The three new varsity players are senior Ashtyn Turrentine, junior Emma Kells and sophomore Rian Linenberger. Turrentine and Kells both played junior varsity in 2017 while this is Linenberger’s first year to participate.
“The others have worked hard over the summer, some with clinics and others with practice,” Specht said. “I think we’ll be competitive, but until we see teams at the first couple of tournaments, it’s hard to tell where we fit in.”
The Buffs will have two home tournaments this year, hosting their own Buffs Invitational on Sept. 10, a 1 p.m. tee off at Buffalo Dunes and then will play host to the Class 6A regional on Oct. 8, also at Buffalo Dunes, with morning tee times scheduled. The Class 6A state tourney is Oct. 15 at Salina Municipal Golf Course.