After a knee injury dashed Makena Mucciaccio’s basketball hopes, she discovered a new sport — and only had to look as far as her back yard.
Mucciaccio and her golf team made their presence known in a big way last year. She finished third individually at the Class 5A state tournament with an 82, powering the AVCTL Division II champion Tigers to a fifth-place finish.
This season, Eisenhower is no longer a secret, and Mucciaccio, a junior, returns this season, as does senior Kalin Watson, a top-50 finisher at state.
“We won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this year,” coach Cliff Hartzog said.
Along with sophomore Kelli Irvin, the three will provide a strong foundation for the Tigers this season.
As for her goals, Mucciaccio said she just wants to continually improve — and she has the added benefit of living adjacent to a hole at Auburn Hills Golf Course.
“My goal is to beat third (at state) and get better than last year,” she said.
Mucciaccio’s transformation was not overnight, but rather the result of practice and hard work.
“I practiced a lot after my freshman year, when I struggled a little bit,” she said.
Mucciaccio’s determination has impressed her coach.
“She’s a kid who really wants to be a golfer,” Hartzog said. “She doesn’t play any other sport. She has made a commitment because she loves it and loves the game.
“After our practices (at Tex Consolver Golf Course), she’ll go over the Auburn Hills and keep practicing. She’s not afraid to chip and putt by herself. She just puts her headphones on and goes to work.”
The Tigers started with a strong finish at the season-opening Andover Open at Wichita State’s Braeburn Golf Course, and continued that throughout the season.
“It was a fun ride, especially my team doing it together,” Watson said. “Playing with them made it all the more special.”
Mucciaccio admits she sometimes struggles early, but bounces back quickly.
At the state tournament, Mucciaccio, paired with St. Thomas Aquinas’ Baile Winslow, the 2011 state medalist and eventual 2012 runner-up, started slowly on the front nine.
“(Hartzog) told me to pull myself together, and I began shooting pretty well,” Mucciaccio said. “I struggled on the front nine, but I found a way to forget about it and come back.”
The Tigers’ main loss to graduation was senior Lyndie Simmons (30th at state), but Mucciaccio said she and Watson have assumed leadership roles.
Eisenhower has an additional incentive to do well this year, Hartzog said. The Tigers will be the host school for this year’s 5A state tournament at Tex Consolver Golf Course. And, they might have an advantage in a field with no clear-cut favorite.
“It’s an interesting year,” he said. “There’s not that dominant team that is going to run away with it.
“There will be some shootouts, for sure.”
AREA GOLF SCHEDULE
3 – Andale, Buhler, Maize South, Maize, Mulvane, Cheney, Nickerson, Pretty Prairie, Medicine Lodge, Pratt, Kingman at Nickerson Tournament, Highlands Golf Course, Hutchinson. East, Southeast at Emporia Tournament; Hutchinson at Hays Tournament. 4 – North, Kapaun Mount Carmel, Northwest, Mulvane, Maize, Valley Center, Andover Central, Derby, Winfield, Augusta, Circle, Collegiate, Eisenhower, Arkansas City, Andover at Andover Invitational, Braeburn Golf Course, Wichita State University, 9 a.m. 5 – Andover, Arkansas City, Buhler, Derby, Hutchinson, Valley Center, Winfield at Newton Invitational, Sand Creek Station Golf Course, 3. 10 – City League at Northwest Tournament, Tex Consolver Golf Course, 3:30 p.m.; Hutchinson, Newton at Salina Central Tournament; Andover, Andale, Augusta, Buhler, Circle, Eisenhower, Goddard, Mulvane, Valley Center, Cheney at Andover Central Tournament, Sierra Hills Golf Course, 3. 12 – Northwest, Andover Central, Bishop Carroll, Eisenhower, Maize, Arkansas City, Newton, Circle, Derby, Arkansas City at Winfield Tournament; Buhler, Goddard, Hutchinson at Dodge City Tournament. 16 – City League at Kapaun Mount Carmel Tournament, Braeburn Golf Course, 3:30 p.m.; Andover, Andover Central, Newton, Circle, Valley Center, Goddard, Mulvane, Cheney at Buhler Tournament, Hesston Golf Course; Buhler, Maize South, Cheney, Nickerson, Pretty Prairie, Medicine Lodge, Kingman at Pratt Tournament. 17 – Andover, Andover Central, Newton, Buhler, Maize South, Circle, Valley Center, Goddard, Mulvane, Cheney, Winfield at Valley Center Tournament, Hesston Golf Course. 18 – Circle at Eureka Tournament, Eureka. 19 – Andover Central, Arkansas City, Goddard, Collegiate, Winfield, Cheney, Maize, Hutchinson at Eisenhower Tournament, Tex Consolver Golf Course, 3; Andale, Andover, Mulvane at Circle Tournament, Prairie Trails Golf Course, El Dorado, 3. 23 – Maize, Andover, Andover Central, Circle, Maize South, Valley Center, Eureka at Augusta Tournament, Augusta Country Club, 3; Buhler, Eisenhower, Mulvane at Cheney Tournament, Cherry Oaks Golf Course, 3. 24 – City League at Bishop Carroll Tournament, Auburn Hills Golf Course, 3:30; Derby, Hutchinson, Maize, Eisenhower, Newton at Salina South Tournament. 26 – Maize, Andover Central, Eisenhower, Goddard at Maize South Tournament, Auburn Hills Golf Course, 3; Bishop Carroll, East, Kapaun Mount Carmel, Derby, Winfield at Arkansas City Tournament; Valley Center at Buhler Tournament, Hesston Golf Course. 30 – City League at East Tournament, MacDonald Golf Course; Andover, Augusta, Circle, Goddard, Mulvane, Cheney, Nickerson, Pretty Prairie, Medicine Lodge at Andale Tournament, Cherry Oaks Golf Course, Cheney, 1.
1 – Andover Central, Buhler, Mulvane, Goddard, Cheney, Nickerson, Pratt, Medicine Lodge at Pretty Prairie Tournament. 2 – Bishop Carroll, East, Heights, Kapaun Mount Carmel, Northwest, Southeast, Dodge City, Goddard, Maize, Valley Center, Andover, Andover Central, Maize South, Collegiate, North at Redskin Open, Sim Park Golf Course, 1 p.m. 3 – Heights, Derby, Arkansas City, Buhler, Derby, Eisenhower, Maize, Newton, Winfield at Hutchinson Tournament, Carey Park Golf Course, 1 p.m. 7 – Southeast, Hutchinson, Eisenhower, Maize, Arkansas City, Winfield, Andover, Mulvane, Newton at Derby Tournament, 3 p.m. 8 – City League Tournament at Sim Park Golf Course, noon; AVCTL Division I Tournament, Salina; AVCTL Division II Tournament, Hesston. 14 – Class 6A regionals at Southeast, Clapp Golf Course; at Hutchinson, Carey Park Golf Course, at Garden City, times TBA; Class 5A regionals at Arkansas City and Hays, times TBA