By BRETT MARSHALL
DODGE CITY — It wasn't the Class 6A regional team championship that had been in possession for the Garden City Lady Buffaloes golf team for the past four years, but the runner-up finish on Monday was good enough to earn the team a fifth consecutive trip to the state tournament next Monday at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita.
As they have all season, the Lady Buffs battled with Maize for team honors, with the Lady Eagles getting the better of the battle for the third time in five tries, finishing with a score of 352 to the Buffs' 356. It was a distant 401 to third-place team Wichita Northwest.
The Lady Buffs, though, could take some solace in the fact that junior Abbi Shaddix came away with medalist honors, shooting a 6-over-par 79, and senior Abbey Campbell placing third with an 82 on a day when wind blowing nearly 20 mph kept scores higher than normal. Junior Megan Steward tied for fifth with a 92 and lost on the first hole of a sudden death playoff to Lexi Clark of Wichita Northwest.
Following those three were sophomore Lindsay Bradstreet with a 103 and freshmen Hannah Leiker with a 113 and Kendra Martin with a 124.
Coach Melinda Base said the girls were disappointed with their performance and that it would be a good motivation for practice between now and state, where the team placed second a year ago for its highest finish in school history. But considering that 2011 state champion Mackenzie Thayer and Anna Robinson graduated from that team, and that senior Audrey Gerber has been out with a torn ACL, the fact the team qualified for state is a testament to the hard work put in during the seven-week season.
"It was kind of a rough day and we had our share of rough patches," Base said. "I think losing to Maize by just four strokes will be a motivating factor for this week's practices."
For Shaddix, the medalist for low honors also came with mixed feelings.
"It's nice to get the win, but in all honesty I felt like I could have played much better," Shaddix said. "I've put a lot of hard work in on my game and I've just gotten more comfortable with my swing. Today, my driver kinda fell apart and my putter and irons sure saved me. I hit a lot of good shots to the greens and made some good putts."
Shaddix, whose nines consisted of 39-40, said she was looking forward to a return to the state for the third time.
"Me and Abbey (Campbell) didn't have the rounds we wanted last year, so I know we want to have a better performance this time," Shaddix said. "The back nine played harder today because more of the holes go into the wind. I think Rolling Hills sets up much better for my game than the courses we played the last two years at state, so I'm really looking forward to it."
For Campbell, she had the early lead after an opening 38 on the front nine. But an alignment problem, she said, resulted in a back nine of 44.
"I'm a little disappointed, not just in my back nine, but it's the first time we haven't won regional," Campbell said. "I knew it (team race) would be close and I played well on the front nine, no problem. But now that we've qualified and get to go to state, I know what I need to work on and the game has been getting better over the past few tournaments."
For Base, the fact that this edition of the Lady Buffs is considerably less experienced than those of the past four years means Monday's accomplishment still served as a positive for her younger players.
"I thought Megan really showed a lot of poise in her comeback," Base said of Steward's incoming nine of 43 after a 49 on the front. "She really showed a lot of fight out there. Lindsay, Hannah and Kendra gained some experience today in their first regional. This was a tough day for them to play and was a great learning experience for them."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.