Published: March 17, 2014
With perhaps a little luck of the Irish - she wore a pin that bragged her heritage - Kelsey McKenna gladly took a bogey on the final hole after gusty winds and blowing dust took over the 16th annual Doherty Spartan Invitational on St. Patrick's Day at Valley Hi Golf Course.
The Air Academy sophomore three-putted through fierce conditions and temperamental greens to start the new season similar to how she finished her last season, finishing just ahead of Mary Kate Nelson of Pine Creek.
Late last April at the Cougar Classic at Kissing Camels Club, McKenna broke through for her first varsity individual victory, edging Nelson by one stroke.
On Monday, McKenna shot a 3-over-par 75, two shots better than Nelson.
"I played a practice round on Saturday, and I knew how slanted that green was," McKenna said. "With the wind, I tried to barely tap it and hit it anywhere near the hole. Even though it was a bogey, I'll take it."
McKenna and Nelson, last year's top area finisher at the 5A state tournament, entered the 18th and final hole tied for the lead.
"When the wind is blowing about 40 miles per hour, I tried to stay focused and play my game," McKenna said. "Keeping my drives low helps, but putting is tough when you're falling over the ball."
McKenna represented a young Kadets team that lost four seniors from last year's 4A state-qualifying team. On the other hand, Cheyenne Mountain, the defending state champion, returns three of the four who hoisted the championship trophy in May at Broken Tee Golf Club in Englewood.
On Monday, the Indians weren't quite in championship form, yet, but were the only team that had three individuals score in the 80s as they cruised to the team title.
Kylee Sullivan, a junior, shot an 81 to finish third overall, while teammate Kelly Kruse placed fourth with an 84 and Samantha Weber carded an 87 to finish sixth in the individual race that included golfers from 15 area schools.
The tournament counted toward regional qualifying for 5A schools and served only as an invitational for other teams.
"I struggled a little at the end with the wind, but I was happy with my score, and the team did well, so you can't ask for anything better," said Kruse, whose Indians finished 17 shots ahead of 5A Pine Creek in the overall team standings. "After winning state last year, of course, we want to do it again on our home course in May. But it's all in the past now. Right now, we just want to improve and play as well as we can."