Depth has been a strength for the Hays High girls golf team all season long, and it’s the biggest reason why the Indians are headed to state for the 13th straight year.
With a productive showing from its entire team, Hays took second in Thursday’s Class 5A golf regional at Smoky Hill Country Club to qualify for Monday’s state tournament at Hesston Golf Course.
Freshman Taleia McCrae led the Indians with a 95 to take seventh, while senior Molly Eikenberry carded a 98 to place ninth and sophomore Sophia Garrison finished 10th with a 100. Senior Emily McGuire added a 15th-place finish with a 105 and seniors Emily George and Brittani Park each tied for 17th by shooting 106s.
The Indians compiled a team score of 398, finishing 32 strokes behind regional champion Maize South.
“We ran rely on any of our girls at any time to step up and use their score,” Hays High coach Mark Watts said. “Usually on teams you have maybe the four that are lowest and a couple that aren’t quite there yet. But I can’t say enough about our seniors and how it’s been such a good four years for them. To get back to state four years in a row, not many girls can say that.”
Watts said the Indians got off to a rocky start but came through when it mattered.
“Had a lot of girls with tears during the round. I always tell the girls, ‘You’re going to cry at some point this year,’ but I didn’t want them to cry after their first or second hole,’ ” Watts said with a chuckle. “You got to keep your composure."
He said he was proud of the way the team finished the tournament on the back nine to punch its ticket to state.
“I love these girls," Watts said. "It’s going to be real exciting to spend some more time with them and finish off the four seniors’ career.”
The regional, originally scheduled for Monday, was rescheduled two different times due to rain.
The golfers were forced to manage the chilly temperature but didn’t have to fight rain or windy conditions on Thursday.
“We played the ball up everywhere. We had seven inches of rain in four days,” Watts said. “Our sand traps weren’t able to be played out of, so we had to drop out of the sand traps. That’s kind of an advantage for everybody because sometimes girls have trouble getting out of the sand traps.
“If the wind was blowing, it would have been worse. But when it wasn’t blowing, the temperature’s manageable. I really liked our back nine. After nine holes, I said, ‘Girls you got to dig down deep. We’ve got to tough it out. You didn’t play very well on the first (nine). You got to forget about it, move on and grind it out,’ and they did.”
Maize also qualified for state with a 400 to take third. Maize South’s Britney Wessley was the individual champion with a 90, winning in a playoff over Maize’s Lexie Ridder.
Watts said he’s confident the Indians could have a strong showing at state on Monday in Hesston.
“We’re going to try and get like in the top six. That would be my goal,” he said.