Mary Kate Nelson made her read, calmly stepped up to the ball and sank the putt just like she’s done hundreds of times before.
But this one was different.
Nelson's putt put the lid on a round of 87 Monday at the 5A girls’ regional at the Colorado Springs Country Club. That round was good enough to make her one of four area golfers to qualify to compete in the state championship tournament.
“It was a surreal feeling walking off the green after putting my 18th hole,” Nelson said. “I was like, “sweet, I’m in.’
“I already knew what I shot. I looked at my coach and said ‘state!’” she added with a little fist pump for emphasis.
“I could not get (the smile) off my face.”
Three other area golfers left the course with a similar smile. Also qualifying for state were Nelson’s Pine Creek teammate, Chelsea Cabanting (86), and the Doherty duo of Brittany Clark (92) and Michelle Nakayama (93).
“(It feels) pretty darn good,” Nakayama said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
None of the four has previously qualified for state. Cabanting is a senior, but Clark and Nakayama are juniors, Nelson is a sophomore and the younger three are hoping to perform well this year and plan on a return engagement.
“I’d like to get a feel for state and then next year do really well,” Clark said.
Highlands Ranch shot a score of 243 to claim the team qualification for state. In addition, the top 16 individuals from the rest of the field also earned a trip to state. The 5A state championship will be held May 21-22 at Aurora Hills Golf Club.
Highlands Ranch’s Patricia Lee won the individual medalist honors with a 72; remarkable considering the cold, rainy conditions. Rock Canyon’s Allie Johnston was second at 75 and ThunderRidge’s Taylor Buck was third at 77.
Lee, who has signed to play collegiately at Georgetown, is looking to add the final jewel to what has been a stellar high school career. She has been the state runner up in each of the past two seasons after taking eighth as a freshman in 2009.
“I’ve basically wanted to win since my freshman year,” Lee said. “I’ve come very close every year and it would mean a lot to finish it off in my senior year.”
Her even-par round Monday got off to a fast start as she birdied both par 5’s on the front side as well as the par 3 fourth hole to make the turn at 3-under par. The back was less kind as she bogied four of the first seven holes before making birdie on No. 17, a par 3.
All of the 57 golfers had to battle a cold day with a mix of rain and snow soaking through their multiple layers of protective gear.
“It was hard the first couple of holes because I was so cold,” Nelson said.
But not so cold as to wipe that smile from her face.