Indians second in season opener
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Hays High School sophomore Taylor DeBoer had never played competitive golf before this season, and she certainly wasn't expected to be the Indians' scoring leader after their first tournament.
Then came her team-high, 9-hole round of 46 on Tuesday at the HHS Invitational at Smoky Hill Country Club.
"I just asked her one day if she wanted to come out and hit some balls with the girls, and she did," Hays High golf coach Mark Watts said. "She's been a really pleasant surprise for us. She doesn't get in trouble, and she shot 46 the other day in practice."
DeBoer, who is also on the Hays High tennis team, was the sophomore class medalist on Tuesday in the Indian's second-place team finish. The top four combined for a 206, one shot better than last year's team at this same tournament.
"I usually get nervous around people and I just don't shoot well. But the people I played with were nice and it was a good day," DeBoer said. "I've played the best that I've ever hit. I kept it in the fairway most of the time."
The Indians aren't strangers to success on the course. They took sixth in Class 5A state last year, and finished as runners up in 2011, when they hosted the state tournament.
Hays High lost two key golfers off last year's team in graduates Taylor Herman and Courtney Hess, but return juniors Elissa Jensen and Lexie Schaben. Schaben was the Indian's best finisher at state a year ago, earning 17th with a 95 through 18-holes at Emporia Municipal Golf Course.
Schaben and Jensen are joined by newcomer Macie Mayo, another junior, as the only upperclassmen on varsity. DeBoer and freshmen Rhian Patterson and Katie Brungardt round out the varsity roster.
"We've got a good foundation with those six girls," Watts said. "This year I didn't know. I had no idea who we were going to have out."
Following DeBoer's 46, Schaben finished with a 51 and Brungardt a 54. Jensen, Patterson and Mayo rounded out the scores with a 55, 60 and 61, respectively.
"This is the second time I've got this, and it's the best I've ever gotten," DeBoer said of her team-high 46. "I hope I can just build on it and keep doing better."
As happy as Watts was with the team's overall score, he knows the young group is capable of more, especially veterans Jensen and Schaben. Hays High goes to Salina Central on Tuesday to play at Salina Municipal Golf Course, which should be a much easier test than the difficult Smoky Hill Country Club.
"That's a course that helps your confidence because you don't have the trees out there," Watts said. "You don't have the water. This course isn't easy. Garden City made it look easy though. But they're good."
Garden City won the tourney with a team score of 177, led by the 34 of overall medalist Abbi Shaddix.
Shaddix is one of the best returning golfers in the state, having placed fifth in the Class 6A tournament last season.
"This is my best start to the season, for sure," Shaddix said, who tied her best 9-hole score on Tuesday. "I really like this course and I was really confident going into it."
Watts knows how good Garden City and Shaddix are, and won't pretend that catching them is a realistic goal this season. But given the inexperience Hays High has after its two juniors, he can't find too much to complain about a tournament into the season.
"Garden City is Garden City ... they are going to win the league. That's kind of a given," Watts said. "Overall second place, I'm very pleased with the girls. It's our course so you should shoot well. I'm happy with it."
TMP learning from season opener
Thomas More Prep-Marian took eight-place in the nine-team field on Tuesday at the HHS Invite with a team score of 248. Senior Monica Michaud led the team with a 9-hole score of 54.
"I actually had a pretty good day," Michaud said. "We have a lot of new beginners that haven't played golf before. We are kind of bringing them up in the ranks."
TMP has three seniors on its varsity roster, including Michaud, Jena Ernsting and Kayla Hockett. Two sophomores in Hannah Michaud and Annaka Applequist round out the group.
"The season is going to be really good because we have a lot of freshmen coming in and we have a lot of returners," Applequist said. "We are trying to build the program so if we get them good, then maybe other people will want to do it. Then keep building up from there."
None of the TMP golfers medalled, but that certainly didn't hurt the team morale. With Smoky Hill being as difficult as it is, the course provided a good early testing ground for a Monarch team looking to get better.
"It's really hard golfing on Smoky. You think we would have the home advantage, but Smoky is a really hard course," Applequist said. "Get it out of the way and learn from your mistakes."