The Manhattan High girls’ golf team only lost one player from last year’s regional runner-up team.
That player was senior captain Blake Fingalsen, who led the Indians most of the year and was at or near the top of the leaderboard most of the season, while earning a 10th place medal at state.
With Fingalsen gone, Manhattan is left to compete for league and regional titles with a group of experienced golfers who need to take the next step.
“Most of the girls on the team have been playing a lot, and that’s the best way to get better,” Manhattan coach Chris George said. “I’m sure they’re ready to get started in tournament play and we’ll see what happens.”
This year’s captain, senior Hannah Devane, said she thinks the team will be able to rebound from losing its best player.
“We have a lot of returning varsity players, so in the end we’ll do just fine,” Devane said. “We’ll be competing with all the other teams like we have been in the past. Even with the loss of Blake, we’ll still place high at tournaments.”
Devane, who is slated to play in the No. 3 spot behind Kylie and Kelsey McCarthy in today’s tournament at Lake Shawnee in Topeka, said taking over as captain has also brought some added pressure to play well.
“There’s a little more pressure to perform, but in the end, it’s just about me,” Devane said. “Playing as well as I know I can.”
Devane, who said her strengths as a golfer are in her long game, wants to see the team stay in the hunt for a league title against rival Washburn Rural.
“We’re just working hard to improve our game so that we can be right in there with schools such as Washburn Rural, who have lots of talent,” she said. “We just want to be able to compete and be within a few strokes.”
Rounding out the squad, at least to start the year, will be Anna Jackson, Cassidy Harper and Amy Levin, all of which saw time on varsity a season ago. George said he’s less concerned about playing below a certain number of strokes, and more concerned about improving averages over time.
“I told them they don’t need to worry about any certain number, but just whatever their average is, strive everyday to achieve at least their average,” he said. “We want to be consistent, not to have roller-coaster scores.”
George said decision making is the biggest part of avoiding holes that blow-up an otherwise good score.
“That’s one thing that we’re going to stress a lot this year,” George said. “Not making poor decisions. Whether or not to go for the gap between the trees or punch out and settle for a bogey. Sometimes it’s awful tempting to go for that Tiger Woods shot, when it’s really not good for the team average-wise. The odds are against you.”
George, who tracks stroke average for each player during their entire Manhattan High golf career, said typically each player cuts around five strokes a year from their average. He’s hoping Kylie and Kelsey McCarthy can take the next step this season after a solid summer.
“It’s interesting to see their progress from when they were a freshman,” George said. “You look at any of the No. 1s we’ve had in the past, they start out over 100 a lot of times as a freshman. By the time they’re seniors they’re shooting 80 or below.”
With just a week of practice under their belts before their first tournament, the girls’ golf team is the first among Manhattan High fall sports to start its season. George said starting school before starting practice on Aug. 19 was beneficial.
“This year it was nice to have school first,” he said. “We could have some meetings and we could talk. As a coach, there’s so much stuff at the beginning of the year it’s tough to juggle that with the beginning of practice. But we’re used to only having a week and then going to a tournament.”
Today’s tournament in Topeka is slated to start at 3 p.m. at Lake Shawnee.