BUFFS ROUNDUP: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019
There’s every good reason why the Garden City Lady Buffaloes golf team and coaches liked the new change in the Class 6A state golf tournament.
Moving from a one-day, 18-hole format, to a two-day, 36-hole championship proved to be a positive for the Lady Buffs as they finished third in the team standings behind the individual runner-up finish of senior Alyssa McMillen, who lost a sudden-death playoff on the second hole after tying for first place with a 36-hole total of 157 (80-77).
The Buffs finished with a 36-hole team total of 377-357–734, placing behind perennial power Shawnee Mission East’s 677 (343-334) and Shawnee-Mill Valley (363-350–713). They finished in front of Topeka-Washburn Rural (377-364–741), Blue Valley High (372-382–754) and Lawrence-Free State (380-381–761). Twelve teams started play on Monday with the low six teams making the cut to the final day of play on Tuesday.
McMillen, who was tied for second with an opening-round 80 in gusty high winds, carded a 77 in the final round on nines of 37-40 to tie with Julia Misemer of Blue Valley West, who had rounds of 81-76. Both players parred the first hole of the playoff but on the second hole, McMillen bogeyed to Misemer’s birdie.
“I’m a little sad that I didn’t win the playoff,” said McMillen, who had finished fifth in her junior year at state. “But I’m so happy the team placed third. We improved so much over the season. Our goal was to get fourth and we got higher than that.”
It was the second day of play that catapulted the Buffs from a tie for fourth in the team race to their third-place finish. Trailing Shawnee Mission East, Mill Valley and Blue Valley after the opening round (Blue Valley led them by 5 shots), the Buffs improved their team score by 20 shots, an average of 5 strokes for each of the four counting scores.
“I think the girls showed a lot of mental toughness during the tournament,” head coach Trent Specht said. “Their short games got better and I think our finish was definitely not on a lot of people’s radar screen.”
Freshman Ryann Warren earned a top 20 medal finish by placing 18th with scores of 95-90–185. Senior Grace Yi was 24th at 189 (97-92) with junior Rian Linenberger 46th on scores of 105-98–203 and senior Emma Kells 58th on rounds of 111-103–214. Sophomore Allie Sandoval was unable to compete due to an illness, so the Buffs only had the five players on the roster with four best scores counting each day.
“State played a lot harder than when we played there (Carey Park Golf Course) earlier in the season,” said Specht of his team’s 346 team score at the Hutch Invitational and McMillen’s 73 a few weeks earlier. “I’m just very happy for the girls. Everyone played better today (Tuesday) and that was a big thing for us.”
McMillen, who won all five of the Western Athletic Conference tournaments this fall and was named WAC Player of the Year for the second straight season, said she and her teammates just worked to improve with each tournament.
“I think the 36 holes really helped us as the best players are more consistent,” she said. “The girl that was leading after day one fell off a little, and Julia (Misemer) was fourth and came from behind. It just shows that you can come back to win with another round. I really liked the two day tournament.”
This was the highest individual finish by a Lady Buff since Abbi Shaddix was a runner-up at the state tourney in 2013 when the event was at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course. The team also placed third that year. In 2012, Abbey Campbell placed third at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita and Shaddix was sixth. In 2011, Mackenzie Thayer became the first girl to win a 6A state golf tourney at Shadow Glen in a sudden death playoff while the Lady Buffs team was second that season. Thayer had placed third (junior), tied for 10th (sophomore) and seventh (freshman) during her high school career.
McMillen plans to attend Dodge City Community College in the fall of 2019 to play for the Lady Conquistadors. With three returners for 2020 (Linenberger, Warren and Sandoval), the Buffs have a solid foundation upon which to build.