After three seasons of varsity golf and three trips to state, seniors Kylie and Kelsey McCarthy are no longer the young guns on the Manhattan High girls’ golf team.
Instead, they are the veterans and co-captains on a varsity squad that will start the year with three freshmen in the lineup at Lake Shawnee Thursday afternoon.
Manhattan head coach Chris George said he expects his two veterans to carry his team, especially early in the year.
“We have two proven state and regional contenders, so they’ll probably carry the load,” George said. “It’s not really fair to expect a freshman to come out of the gate and do real well, but Macie Meyer has played in a lot of tournaments this summer and she’s a really solid golfer. She’ll be really good as she gets older.”
The team will also feature senior Taylor Schalles and freshmen Katie Ochoa and Delaney Wisdom.
George said after coaching last year’s senior-laden team, he is enjoying the challenge of tutoring younger players.
“It’s always fun to work with people that are eager to learn,” he said. “It’s a good freshman class. They’re going to be the solid nucleus of teams for years to come. They have great attitudes and they take lessons — they just need to play and keep practicing. They’ve got some good skills to start with.”
While the freshmen will have to contribute right away for the team to finish among the top teams in the state, it will be up to the McCarthys to lead the way. George said both of them got better this summer while attending camps this summer through the First Tee program.
“They got some good tips there, and played quite a bit of golf,” George said. “They came back ready to go, and they’re our co-captains, and they’ve done a lot of things for us. They want to play college golf, and there’s no reason why they can’t with their work ethic and the skills they have now.”
Kylie, who played in the No. 1 position last year, said both her and her sister went to San Diego for a First Tee camp aimed at developing leadership skills.
“In school, Kelsey and I aren’t the most outgoing people, we’re kind of shy and quiet,” Kylie said. “So this gives us the chance to be out there and be fun people to be around and good leaders. I think it’s a good chance to become better leaders and become better people, too.”
Kylie said she is still adjusting to life as an experienced veteran on the team.
“We have younger talent, with three freshmen on varsity,” she said. “So it’s a little weird being the older one instead of the youngest ones.”
“It’s a little bit different,” she said. “Last year we had four seniors and two juniors. This year we have freshmen out there. They haven’t had as much experience being on varsity, but it’ll be a good experience for them. I think they’ll have a lot of fun.”
In addition to the leadership camp, Kelsey also attended the week-long International Junior Golf Academy in South Carolina.
“Basically what I got out of it was they helped me with my swing and helped improve my swing a lot,” she said, “It helped with chipping and putting, too.”
While Kylie said her personal goal is to shoot in the 70s and beat Class 6A defending state champion Washburn Rural at a tournament, Kelsey said she hopes to be among the top individual finishers at each tournament Manhattan plays in.
“I want our team to be in the top three like we normally do, and personally, place in the top five or even top three at every tournament,” Kelsey said. “My goal is to shoot in the mid-70s to lower-80s. I’m looking forward to the season — I want to make the best of my last year.”
George said the team goal remains to finish in the top three at regionals and get back to state. This season, Manhattan will host the regional round at Stagg Hill Golf Club.
“We’ll have good competition to play against all year, along with a lot of other teams, too,” he said. “But getting back to state is definitely our goal.”