Indian golfers win own invitational in opener
By AUSTIN COLBERT
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Make it two in a row for the Hays High School girls' golf team at Smoky Hill Country Club.
The Indians opened their 2014 season by winning the Hays High Invitational Tuesday in Hays, besting perennial Western Athletic Conference power Garden City by a single stroke. Hays High only won a single tournament all of last season, that being the Class 5A regional it hosted at Smoky.
But with Garden City -- last year's tourney champion -- down its best player -- North Texas State University freshman golfer Abbi Shaddix, who shot a nine-hole score of 34 last year to win in Hays -- the door was left open, if barely, for Hays High to squeeze through for the rare win.
"It means a lot to me and our team, of course, because this hasn't happened for a while," senior Elissa Jensen said. "We've always been head to head with Garden City and we barely did beat them. It's always nice to win on your home course, especially in the first tournament of the year. It's a good start for us."
Hays High shot a four-player cumulative score of 194 in the nine-hole tournament, edging out Garden City's 195. Jensen led the Indians with a 45, her personal best score at Smoky and her best mark in her four-year career at Hays High. Her 45 was good for second-place overall, falling a stroke short of the 44 put up by Garden City sophomore Danielle Gaspar.
Jensen shot a 55 in this same tournament last season, and shot 110 at regionals over 18 holes.
"With Elissa shooting her 45 and finishing in second place, that's the best she's done since she's been here," HHS coach Mark Watts said. "We got the first leg of the WAC, which is important to do. We haven't won a tournament in a long time. Garden City had kind of been blowing everybody away. So that was nice to win our own tournament."
The Indians had two other golfers medal (top 10) along with Jensen. Junior Taylor DeBoer, who Watts said is the team's most improved golfer, shot 47 to finish in fourth place. Sophomore Rhian Patterson was sixth with 50. Rounding out Hays High's four-player team score was sophomore Katie Brungardt's 52.
Three other golfers also competed for Hays High in seniors Summer Smith (56), Macie Mayo (57) and Lexie Schaben (57).
Schaben, who is expected to be the team's top golfer this season, was certainly the biggest surprise. She also struggled in this tournament last year, shooting a 51, but took second at regionals with an 18-hole score of 93.
Despite the early hiccup, Watts isn't worried about the veteran Schaben. If anything, he is glad to see the team's depth come through to help get the tournament win even without Schaben factoring into the mix.
"I'm not worried about what Lexie's going to do. She has been one of our best golfers on varsity the last three years. It was just a couple of bad shots and she made some bad choices and kind of let it get to her," Watts said. "When you play at your home course you expect to shoot pretty decent. I think our girls were nervous."
Taking third as a team in the tournament was Hutchinson (206), followed by Thomas More Prep-Marian (213), Great Bend (224), Salina Central (226), Dodge City (242) and Liberal (257).
TMP's fourth-place finish was a drastic improvement over last year's 248 in this tournament, which was good for eighth-place in the nine-team field. Pacing the Monarchs was freshman Karee Dinkel, who shot 50 and took eighth overall.
Junior Taylor Dinkel (52), sophomore Alison Helget (54) and junior Annaka Applequist (57) rounded out the team scoring for TMP. Junior Hannah Michaud (60) and senior Pam Chen (61) also competed.
TMP will next compete at Goodland on Tuesday, while Jensen and Hays High will head to Salina, which is hosting the Class 5A state golf tournament this season.
"It went pretty well for me. ... That's the best I've ever shot on that course. Last week we played and I shot 52 and just today, I don't know, I didn't really have any pressure on me," Jensen said of her second-place finish Tuesday. "We are really all about the same, so it's nice to know if we are playing bad then hopefully our other teammates are doing pretty good, which is what happened today."