The tears dried, the sun came up the next day, and Kapaun Mount Carmel freshman Emma Whitaker learned something about the mistake that kept her from winning individual and team titles at last week’s City League golf tournament.
She wasn’t alone.
After Whitaker and teammate Kali Babich were disqualified for signing incorrect scorecards in the tournament at Sim Park, Wichita State men’s golf coach and Kapaun alumnus Grier Jones visited with the Crusaders and shared a personal tale of a similar experience from his past.
“It just shows you that it can happen to anyone, and it’s a lesson you’ve got to learn,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker’s first chance to apply her clerical lesson will come Monday, when the Crusaders compete in the Class 5A regional at Arkansas City Country Club.
Kapaun is part of a seven-team field that includes City League tournament champion Bishop Carroll. The top three teams will advance to the 5A tournament Oct. 21 at Wichita’s Consolver Golf Course.
Kapaun was second in 5A last fall, and the addition of Whitaker has kept the Crusaders strong. She posted a 75 in her high school tournament debut, won two of the four City League-only nine-hole tournaments, and was also the Arkansas City Invitational medalist at the site of Monday’s tournament.
First-year Kapaun coach Corey Novascone said Whitaker plays a style of golf that belies her age.
“She’s never afraid to put the hours in to get better,” Novascone said. “She knows exactly what she does well and what she needs to work on. And for a 14-year-old, she’s got pretty good course management.”
Long and straight off the tee, Whitaker also displayed deft touch around the greens in the league tournament. She parred the final 13 holes, including a pitch-and-putt save over a bunker to a tight pin on the 18th hole.
“It’s definitely something I have to keep strong,” Whitaker said. “I feel like my short game has always been one of my weaknesses.
“It’s where you can gain and lose a lot of strokes. All of my teammates and I have really improved our short games and it helps a lot.”
Whitaker, who has worked with Wichita Country Club instructor Josh Cook since she was 9, will try to add another tournament victory against plenty of talented individuals. Eisenhower junior Makena Muccaiccio was third in 5A last season, and Maize South junior Laine Evans edged Whitaker by a stroke for medalist honors at the Andover Invitational.
Then there’s Whitaker’s teammates. Hannah Perkins won a 5A regional title last season, and Hannah Johnston was the City League medalist on Tuesday after Whitaker’s disqualification.
“It’s been really fun coming out every day with this team,” Whitaker said. “You’re not just playing for yourself, you’re playing for a team. That’s been a great experience and I’ve loved having it as a freshman.
“We push each other and make each other better. It’s nice knowing if you have a bad day, you have teammates who can help carry you.”