In her first high school golf tournament since a serious knee injury, Taleia McCrae wasn’t sure exactly what to expect for Monday’s Hays High Invitational.
McCrae was on the mend this summer after suffering a torn ACL and partially torn MCL early in the basketball season last December.
She showed no ill effects from the injury, capturing her first high school individual tournament title and helping the Indians take the team title in the season-opening tournament at Smoky Hill Country Club.
McCrae shot an 80, edging Salina South’s Zoe Norton by one shot.
"Wasn’t my best work, for sure, but for my first tournament I thought I did pretty good," McCrae said. "My putting today was what I struggled with a lot. But I’m pleased with it for my first tournament.
"My drives were my best shots today for sure."
McCrae said she was able to keep a positive outlook while recovering.
"I had a very good support team beside me. My mom (Melea) especially, she was always there for me," McCrae said. "It made the recovery, not easy, but bearable."
McCrae shot a 42 on the front nine and a 38 on the back.
"I didn’t know what to expect with Taleia just because she hasn’t done anything for so long because of her knee," Hays High coach Mark Watts said. "She’s a natural.
"We shortened up the golf course a lot. It made it where you didn’t have to hit driver very often. Taleia hits a five-iron as far as everybody hits driver, so it really wasn’t an issue for her. I’m happy with Taleia."
The Indians took the team title with a 335. Salina South took second with a 371.
The Indians put five players in the top 10. Senior Sophia Garrison and freshman Abbie Norris each shot an 84, placing fifth and sixth respectively. Sophomore Katie Dinkel took ninth with an 87 and junior Gracie Wente was 10th with an 89.
"Good start," Watts said. "I’m really pleased with the way we played."
The tournament was expanded to 18 holes this year because of a state rule that limited the amount of golfers that could participate in a nine-hole tournament. The course was shortened so the tournament could be completed before daylight ran out.
"I think it worked out great," Watts said. "The weather was awesome."
The Indians have reached the state tournament in 14 consecutive seasons. McCrae was 12th at state last year as a sophomore.
"I’m hoping to just have a good season with my team," McCrae said. "Hopefully we’ll get all our tournaments in. And I’m hoping we could bring home something from state, that would be good.
"I feel very good about our odds. We didn’t lose any seniors last year. We have the same team and we can only get better from here."
Watts likes his team’s depth with 21 players out.
"I think we have a good team for the WAC," he said. "I think we have a chance to maybe win the WAC this year with the experience we have coming back. But we still have to go to the other teams’ golf courses and play their courses."
More than anything, amid the uncertainty because of the pandemic, Watts said it was a great feeling for his players to take the course Monday.
"That’s the biggest thing; we just wanted to get out there and play," he said. "We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I’ve had a girl have COVID. I’ve had one girl on my team that had to quarantine for 14 days. You just don’t know.
"We’re really working on practicing our social distancing. Outside, we can do this in golf. It’s just about when you go away from the golf course and you’re hanging with your friends.
"The uncertainty, you just don’t know. We’re going to take each tournament one at a time, see if we can get that one in, and then go on to the next one."
Thomas More Prep-Marian took sixth as a team Monday, placing two players in the top 20. Ella Brummer led the Monarchs with a 96 to finish 17th while Allison Applequist took 19th with a 97.
Hays High is scheduled to play in the Salina Central Invitational next Tuesday while TMP is set to play in the Goodland Invitational on Tuesday.
Hays 335, Salina South 371, Dodge City 377, Garden City 384, Great Bend 393, TMP-Marian 403, Salina Central 413, Liberal 453.
1. McCrae, Hays, 42-38—80; 2. Norton, Salina South, 38-43—81; 3. Warren, Garden City, 42-42—84; 4. Frees, Salina South, 42-42—84; 5. Garrison, Hays, 41-43—84; 6. Norris, 38-46—84; 7. Harbaugh, Great Bend, 44-43—87; 8. Fry, Dodge City, 42-45—87; 9. Dinkel, Hays, 41-46—87; 10. Wente, Hays, 39-50—89.
Other Hays High scores
13. Smith, 48-47—95; 14. Melvin, 47-48—95; 26. Humphrey, 53-50; 30. Martin, 50-54—104; 37. H. Schumacher, 56-51; 38. Schneider, Hays, 56-52—108; 42. Banker, Hays, 60-51—111.
17. Brummer, 50-46—96; 19. Applequist, 45-52—97; 31. Romme, 50-54; 35. Rozean, 46-60—106; 43. Hipp, 56-55; 45. Herrman, 55-59—114.