Even before the season started, back in the summer when they played worry-free rounds, Lawrence High’s girls golfers talked about returning to the Class 6A state tournament this fall with the help and guidance of new coach Kristen Samp.
Much to the Lions’ surprise and disappointment, it didn’t work out that way for them this past Monday at a regional in Overland Park. The Lions finished fourth at the tournament, and only senior Anna Wright and junior Abigail Schmidtberger qualified as individuals.
“Everybody was planning on making it,” Wright said. “Missing it by two strokes (behind the third-place team, Olathe South), that was just kind of heartbreaking.”
Schmidtberger began self-critiquing upon seeing that Olathe Northwest, Blue Valley West and O-South — and not LHS — would be sending all of their golfers to state, where the Lions finished ninth in 2011.
“I was just going back through my game, thinking about where I could’ve dropped a stroke,” Schmidtberger said. “I was just really upset that we didn’t get to go as a team.”
Meanwhile, Free State’s Emily Bermel, Karen Campbell and Michaela Miller qualified for state at their regional in Topeka. Campbell said it was a day of excitement and relief for the three sophomores.
“I don’t think any of us played the round we really wanted to play — I mean Emily did, she always does — and Michaela and I got a little bit lucky, I feel like,” she said.
That advantageous feeling came from the fact FSHS wasn’t at the same regional as LHS. Some schools shifting classifications this fall led to the reshuffling of some of the regional fields. Upon hearing about Lawrence’s qualifying two golfers, Campbell said the Firebirds couldn’t believe it.
“LHS’s competition was a little bit more intense,” she said.
The top five individual qualifiers at the Free State’s regional had scores ranging from 86 to 116, while at Lawrence’s regional qualifying scores were from 72 to 92. Campbell felt particularly bad for Lawrence senior Quillen Eichhorn, a close friend who introduced her to golf three years ago.
Now that the shock and disappointment has worn off some for the city’s five state-qualifiers, they are ready today to take on the Rolling Hills Country Club course, in Wichita. Wright and Schmidtberger played a practice round Thursday, and the Firebirds did the same Sunday.
Wright hopes the Lions’ state experience will help them.
“I don’t think I’ll be as nervous this year,” she said, “since I’ve been there and done that before.”
Campbell said sometimes she prefers playing at an unfamiliar venue.
“Then I don’t have the history with the course,” she said. “If I hit a bad shot, I won’t be like, ‘Yesterday I hit a great shot that would’ve played better.’”
The 6A state tournament begins at 8:30 a.m.