Girls golf team

In this file photo from last year, members of the 2018 Manhattan High varsity girls golf team included, from left to right, A.J. Ryan, Andi Siebert, Elise Jackson, Camy McAtee, Kami Bussman and Rhys Phipps. Head coach Paige McCarthy said she’s counting on Bussman and Siebert to lead this year’s team.

Manhattan High girls golfers Kami Bussman and Andi Siebert were asked what they did at practice Monday. They paused, looked at each other and laughed while head coach Paige McCarthy smiled and inserted, “Oh, don’t ask them that.”

Moments earlier, McCarthy had said her two team captains, Bussman, a senior, and Siebert, a junior, along with the rest of the golf team probably weren’t too happy with her about practice.

“We worked on chipping,” Bussman finally said, laughing.

Of course that wasn’t all they worked on, but it was certainly the most memorable, and in this case, bizarre. This wasn’t a normal drill.

“They had us chip into the hole, which is hard, but it is good practice,” Siebert added. “We had to chip three into the hole, each, before we could move on to the next drill.”

Like Siebert said, this is no easy task; most great chip shots are judged based on how close the ball gets to the hole in hopes of setting up a manageable putt. But making it? That’s the kind of effort McCarthy has seen her team develop.

This is only her second year as the head coach of the girl’s golf team at Manhattan. The Indians made strides in Year 1. Her team tied for first in the Centennial League in 2018 and placed fifth in the state. That state finish is about where the teams in the past have finished, but there’s no settling now.

And that began Wednesday afternoon in Topeka, with the Indians opening their 2019 campaign at the Seaman Invitational.

“Last year the team tied for first in the league, and that was pretty unexpected that they would do that well,” McCarthy said. “So hopefully they have got a taste of that and that what is maybe driving them to work a little bit harder.”

The success begins with her upperclassmen. Bussman and Siebert, along with a few other juniors. A transfer from Alabama, Emily Yerman, also will be relied on, McCarthy said. Over the summer McCarthy took some of her players out to a couple holes around town to pick their brains about how they want to tackle specific shots and set up their next one.

This is part of a couple improvements McCarthy said she felt her team could benefit from.

“Always short game and course management,” McCarthy said. “Playing the course and not letting the course play them. This summer we tried to at least once make the effort with those that wanted to, to walk out through a few holes and (find out) what their thought process is and where they are aiming the ball to set themselves up for the next shot. We just constantly try to do that.”

Another change this season is the chemistry of the team. Rarely, if ever, did the junior varsity and varsity players practice together in the past, McCarthy said. But the leadership and togetherness is crucial to being successful, and that leads to some pressure for both Bussman and Siebert.

“It’s been a little different dynamic, because our two captains have had to be able to be a little uncomfortable, because they are really good at quiet leadership and leading by example,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s been hard for them to shift into being more vocal. They are not very happy with my practice (Monday), so they might say I haven’t. I try to give them a little encouragement in making sure our new freshmen and our new player from Alabama, Emily, try to feel welcome and emphasize that they try to get into different groups when they do drills to try and get everybody involved.”

Bussman has taken a leadership role being a part of the Manhattan soccer program, too. So she has some experience there. Siebert admitted she hasn’t done anything like this before, having to be the one others look to. But she’s already made the effort to do what McCarthy wants to see from her.

“I’ve just tried to stay in contact with everybody and get everybody’s feelings and not just what we want or what I want,” Siebert said.

The girls realized that it’s going to take harder work to get where they want to be, which is to be one of the top three teams in the state, McCarthy said. That’s why, although tedious and demanding, a drill like making three chip-ins was embraced as a challenge. It’s all about the mindset and the preparation.

“I am telling them to trust the process,” McCarthy said. “We want to be at our very best at the end of September and into and through October.”