You can’t tell from the results, but Manhattan High’s Blake Fingalsen says she doesn’t care much for the course at the Manhattan Country Club.
“It’s just steep,” Fingalsen said of the course. “On the front nine, it slants one way, on the back nine it goes the other way.”
Battling those hills and a blustery wind that got worse as the day went on, Fingalsen won the Manhattan Invitational for the second year in a row with a playoff win over Washburn Rural’s Haley Flory after the two both finished with identical scores of 80.
Fingalsen won the same event last year, despite not playing the course very often. The senior captain said she prefers Stagg Hill when she’s playing here in town.
“I was happy to see Blake bring home the gold,” MHS head coach Chris George said. “The conditions got worse as the day went on and it was difficult up on these hills with this much wind just to stand there and putt.”
Fingalsen’s top finish, paired with Kylie McCarthy’s fourth-place 87 gave the Indians enough to finish second in the team scoring with a 363, 11 strokes behind the always-tough Rural.
“We need to develop a little more depth for our team if we want to compete with the top teams in the state — and I know we’re capable,” George said. “So it’s just a matter of getting five good scores that we can choose from instead of having to rely on just two or three. It’s a total team effort, and they know we just have a couple weeks left.”
Kelsey McCarthy finished ninth on the day with a 96, with Anna Jackson (100) and Hannah Devane (101) finishing 16th and 17th. Cassidy Harper rounded out the scoring with a 121.
Finishing in third in the team standings was Shawnee Heights with a 397, with Topeka Hayden (405) and Topeka West (457) finishing the top five.
With the home meet in the books, the Indians can now look toward the postseason. Regionals are scheduled for Monday, with state following just one week after that. Manhattan is assigned to the Cypress Ridge regional in Topeka, so they’ll get at least one more shot at upending Rural.
George said he doesn’t change the team’s routines this time of year, instead just trying to continually focus on the basics.
“Just keep emphasizing the fundamentals so they don’t get too psyched out and don’t try to hit miracle shots,” George said. “Just play the way they’ve played all year long. Even though the pressure is on a little bit more, that doesn’t mean you have to try and do anything spectacular — it’s just doing the fundamental things and having a good short game. That’s what we’ll work hard on the next two weeks.”