For the past seven years, whether as a member of Class 4A or 3-2-1A, Cheney’s girls golf team made the state tournament.
Last year, after those seven years of qualifying — including playing two state tournaments at Cherry Oaks Golf Course, the Cardinals’ home course — Cheney Cheney’s girls golf team finally could celebrate a championship.
The Cardinals used an 87 and 96, respectively, from seniors Brooklyn Lonker and Taylor Wheelock for a seven-stroke victory over Caney Valley in the 3-2-1A championships. Lonker’s score was good for co-medalist, and Wheelock finished ninth.
Veteran coach Randy Leroux – beginning his 16th season as Cardinals coach – said the victory was in doubt and there was suspense all the way to the end.
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“We had to wait until the last group got in,” he said.
The Cardinals also caught a bit of a break, he said, when two-time defending champion Syracuse lost a golfer to injury during regionals and failed to make the state field.
“You never know when things come up,” Leroux said.
Cheney was runner-up to Syracuse in 2012, and that made his girls even hungrier, Leroux said.
“I was very happy for the girls for coming so close,” he said. “They worked hard during the summer and said we were going to win the next year.”
He was cautiously confident entering last season because he returned five of six girls from the previous year.
Lonker did receive some offers to play golf in college, but both she and Wheelock are attending Kansas State.
With those two gone, scoring might be more difficult this season, but Leroux will be counting on seniors Taylor Overlees, Elyssa Kohler and Daleen Turner, all of whom finished in the top 30 at state. He is also expecting a big contribution from sophomore Macy Wallace.
“We need a lot there,” Leroux said of his returning seniors. “We have no juniors and one sophomore, but we do have a lot of leadership.”
The experience alone has given some rise to optimism on Leroux’s part as the season begins.
“I’ve been very impressed so far,” he said. “We’re starting off really well.
“We have a lot of natural talent who have put in the work to expand that and get better and better. The girls tell me that every year, and we’re always surprised.”
Cheney is fortunate enough to hold its practices at Cherry Oaks — a favorite site for KSHAA’s state and regional golf tournaments.
“It’s good to have for our community,” Leroux said of Cherry Oaks. “(Having it as a home course) always helps.”
Cheney’s defense of its title begins Tuesday at Highlands Golf Club in Hutchinson, which will give Leroux a good idea of what this team’s strengths are and where they need improvement.
He said that a successful defense of the title isn’t an impossibility.
“We’ve got a good starting three, but we need the 4, 5 and 6 players to go with them,” Leroux said.
He said he’s ready for tournaments to begin.
“We need to see these girls and how they play,” he said. “Then, we’ll get an idea of how we stack up.”