Wilson crushes league

LHS senior still driven despite dominant win

? With time winding down on her high school golf career, Lawrence High’s Sydney Wilson is plagued by a case of great expectations.

She’s not content to simply keep winning tournaments. With possibly just two outings remaining in her senior campaign, Wilson wants to see improvement in her game.

By that measure, Wilson labeled her latest triumph a slide in the wrong direction. Never mind the fact she easily outdistanced the field Tuesday at the Olathe East Invitational, finishing with a 13-over 85 on the demanding 4,745-yard layout at Ironhorse Golf Club.

“It’s nice to add another title,” said Wilson, who actually earned two – coupled with her victory at last month’s Lawrence Invitational, she was also crowned the Sunflower League champ by a commanding 18 strokes over runner-up Nicole Ainsworth of Shawnee Mission Northwest.

“However, I don’t feel like I really improved or took a step forward today. It’s more like a step backward,” Wilson said.

She refused to blame the golf course for Tuesday’s lackluster showing. Many players grumbled as they walked into the clubhouse to report their scores.

“I thought it was more I just didn’t play well,” Wilson said. “The holes I hit the ball well, I played fine.”

While Wilson looked for a silver lining, teammate Jamie Shmalberg was all smiles after firing a 94. Although that score wasn’t strong enough to earn a medal for the invite, it did allow the LHS senior to bring home Sunflower League hardware with a fifth-place finish.

“I was just focused on scoring and not thinking about it too much,” said Shmalberg, who shot 90 at the Lawrence invite. “Just keeping calm and making sure I was doing everything I’m supposed to do.”

Unfortunately for the Lions, the two solid individual performances were somewhat overshadowed by the squad’s failure to qualify for a spot on the final team leaderboard. Two players whom LHS coach Mike Lewis expected to bring to Ironhorse were unable to make the trip, leaving him with a minimum four players. When Courtney Kincaid withdrew during Thursday’s round, the Lions no longer were eligible to compete for team honors.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Lewis said. “I try not to put any pressure on the girls … but I’m disappointed we couldn’t post four scores to earn mathematical competition.

“We have 12 girls on our golf team. There’s no excuse that we can’t post a team score.”

LHS wasn’t alone in that department. Free State head coach Craig Hershiser entered just two players at the Lawrence Invitational and did so again Thursday.

Katy Hoffman shot 102 and finished with an even 200 on the league ledger, while Ashley Robinson recorded a 114 and a 223 league total for the Firebirds.

Shawnee Mission South won Thursday’s team title with 376 strokes, while Shawnee Mission East earned the Sunflower League’s top billing after a combined 755 strokes.

Next up for LHS and Free State is Monday’s eight-team Class 6A-5A regional at Cypress Ridge Golf Course in Topeka. The top two teams from that competition will advance to the state tournament, as will the top five individual scorers who don’t qualify via the team route.

Lewis hopes to find the right combination of players in the next six days that will give his team a shot at one of those berths.

“We just need to find two girls that can come and compete at the regionals on Monday and finish the 18-hole round and complete our team effort,” Lewis said.

– High school sports editor Scott Tittrington can be reached at 832-7227.