Few teams, especially golf teams, can boast two individual state champions.
Andover girls golf can.
Last year, then-sophomore Tiffany Chan won the Class 5A title after shooting a remarkable 5-over 76 and holding off St. Thomas Aquinas’ Maggie King. And now, the Trojans welcome home Madison Slayton.
Slayton won the 2016 Class 4A individual title as a freshman. She shot a 79 and beat her teammate Hanna Hawks by a stroke. Together, they helped the Knights to their first and only title as of 2019.
Although the championship was historic for the school, it spawned a friendly rivalry between Hawks and Slayton. The following year, Slayton took third at state; Hawks finished in sixth.
Last year, as the Knights’ team dwindled to just the two golf stars, the trend flipped and Hawks won her first individual title while Slayton came in third again.
Hawks had an unbelievable season in 2018. She finished with a 71.2-stroke average, which was better than any female player that season and any male player the season before. About a week after she won state, she announced her verbal commitment to Kansas.
A couple of days later, Hawks and Slayton went to the Eagle’s All-Metro photoshoot. It was the last time Slayton wore a Trinity Academy golf uniform. Soon after, she transferred back to the Andover Unified School District, where she spent her elementary and middle school years of her education.
While a narrative exists of athletes moving from public to private schools for more exposure, Slayton did the opposite.
“I’ve always felt like I was supposed to be at Andover,” Slayton said. “I’ve always been really passionate about Andover, even while I was at Trinity. I went to football games, basketball games. I just noticed I was way happier here than I was at Trinity. I just fit in a lot better here I think.”
After spending a year competing at state as an individual without a team alongside her besides Hawks, Slayton now joins one of the best girls golf teams in Kansas and easily the best in the Wichita area.
Over the past two seasons, Andover has lost two tournaments; both losses came at state to St. Thomas Aquinas. The Trojans have an outstanding junior class with Chan, the defending 5A champion, and Alivia Nguyen, the returning AVCTL II champ, and Kelsey Hawley, who finished tied for 16th at state.
But as Slayton came through the door, one of the area’s best players walked out and moved across town. Junior Shauna Lee, who won Andover’s 5A regional over Chan, Nguyen and Hawley, now plays at Andover Central. She finished in seventh at state last year.
Although both earned All-Metro honors last year, Slayton finished the season with a 5.8-stroke advantage over Lee. Aquinas won state by seven strokes last year, so the gap has closed, at least in theory.
Andover coach Ryan Harshaw said just having another champion on the roster is reason enough to get excited for another state title run.
“You hear people speak like Jordan Spieth, who played at Texas, or Rickie Fowler, who played at Oklahoma State, they say there is no comparison to team golf,” Harshaw said. “With this many talented players on the squad, there is a little bit of inter-squad competitiveness, and that drives us to become better. It helps us.”
Chan said she still cannot believe she is a state champion. She averaged 82.8 strokes per round last year and said she believes that number will only go down through her junior season. Chan said she still hasn’t settled on the title and knows what she need to improve on to get back at the front of the pack.
Chan and Slayton have played several tournaments and practiced together in their careers. When Chan was asked how excited she was to have one of Kansas’ best, only one word came out.
“Very,” Chan said.
Staying engaged throughout the regular season will be one of the keys for the Trojans. Having back-to-back undefeated regular seasons has meant a few runaway victories. Harshaw said the good news is there are plenty of teammates around the Trojans who will push one another every day in practice.
“Whether it’s short game, mid-irons, there’s always a goal in practice to improve,” he said. “When you get complacent, you plateau out. Obviously our motivation is that we’ve gotten runner-up in state the last two years.”
But the reality is what is is. Andover and St. Thomas Aquinas are Class 5A’s top two teams. St. James Academy came in third last year and finished 10 strokes behind the Trojans.
Hawley said she is ready to get on the course.
“I think we are going to be pretty solid this year,” she said. “We have four really good, solid players. I think it’s basically going to be a repeat until state, and we are going to have to push forward for that and try out best that day.”
But few could be more excited than Slayton. She announced her verbal commitment to Wichita State on Tuesday. She is finally part of a complete team again. And she has a chance to be her own player.
“I guess there is a sense of pressure that has been lifted, but I think the 5A class is just as competitive,” Slayton said. “So there is still a lot of pressure left, which is good. I’m ready.”
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