Blake Fingalsen says she’s not a natural leader.
The Manhattan High girls’ golf team captain is the only senior on the roster this year. A four-year starter and team leader in stroke average, she won the captain job this year without opposition.
“She’s our only senior, so she was thrown into it,” MHS coach Chris George said of Fingalsen’s leadership role. “So she won by default.”
Fingalsen has led this Manhattan team with her consistency, finishing with the top score in each of the Indians’ tournaments this season. George said it’s her steadiness that has fueled her solid senior season.
“She normally hits the ball into the fairway on her tee shot, and that’s been a struggle for some of the others on our team,” George said. “She’s consistently hitting a good tee shot that’s far - you wouldn’t think she could hit so far as small as she is, but she hits the ball a long ways and her tee shot is usually good.
“So it’s a little harder to get in trouble when you’re hitting approach shots to the green from a fairly short distance, as opposed to if you get in trouble right off the tee and then you’ve got to punch out and do all those things. She usually stays away from that.”
Fingalsen started playing golf at age 6 and has been a varsity contributor since she was a freshman, so her consistency is nothing new. George estimated in 36-career tournaments, the team has used Fingalsen’s score 34 times. But she’s improved her game each year, which doesn’t always happen when you start at such a high level.
“Just to maintain that and practice everyday, she leads by good example,” he said. “She practices with a purpose like the good players do. She’s done everything that you could ask somebody to do to get better.
“She plays in a lot of summer tournaments, she sponsors our fundraising in the summer, she’s just been a great captain.”
Fingalsen said the biggest change in her game over four years has been her concentration.
“My freshman year, I didn’t really focus as much when I was on the green,” she said. “Now I take more time to focus on my putts and stuff, which definitely helps with the short game.”
Fingalsen’s leadership style is less vocal and more about just leading by example. She said she enjoyed playing varsity as a freshman and hanging out with her older teammates. She learned from them how to relate to younger players, while also having fun.
“All the upperclassmen that year called me Bizzle,” Fingalsen said. “That was my nickname. They called me it all season.
“We all came up with nicknames, but mine was the only one that stuck.”
With a laid-back style and a cheerful disposition, George likes the way Fingalsen is leading this team.
“She’s not real vocal, but she’s always cheerful,” he said. “She’s respected, so that’s the perfect combination.”
George said one of the things that separates Fingalsen from the rest of the pack, besides good tee shots, is her short game.
“She may not hit the green in regulation, but she’s got a good short game and can get a good chip and a one-putt to save par,” he said. “I think that’s what separates her from some of the other girls on the team. She’s grown as a golfer past that stage. It happens every now and then, but not a whole lot. That’s what the good players do and that’s how she’s been able to grow.”
Now Fingalsen must lead the Indians into regionals once again. Hosted by Washburn Rural today, the Indians should advance through to state as a team, with the sky as the limit once they get there. Fingalsen has come close, but never medaled at state as an individual.
Anything close to the top of her game should change that this year.