September 23, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
Two years ago, during her sophomore season at K-State, Gianna Misenhelter shot 2-over par at Colbert Hills Golf Course and wound up placing second by only one shot in the 2011 Marilynn Smith/Sunflower Invitational.
It's a finish that still haunts her today.
Now as the lone senior of the K-State women's golf team, Misenhelter will have her final opportunity to compete on her home turf.
"I've tried to not really think about it," Misenhelter said about the bittersweet event of competing at home for the last time today and tomorrow. "I don't know how to explain it, but I want to get the golf course back in a way. I played out here my sophomore year and lost by a shot, so the course is definitely going to see some of me out there. I'm just trying to prepare as well as I can and we'll see what happens."
K-State Women's Golf is set to host the Marilynn Smith/Sunflower Invitational, which tees off this morning at 8:30 a.m., with 36 holes and concluding tomorrow with the final 18 holes beginning at 8:15 a.m. Competing at Colbert Hills with K-State will be Arkansas State, Colorado State, Creighton, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico State, North Texas, Northern Iowa, Oral Roberts, Redlands Community College, Southern Illinois, Tulsa, UMKC and Wichita State. The event is free to the public.
From knowing how to handle the Kansas wind to familiarity with Colbert Hills Golf Course, the home of K-State Golf, playing at home will have its advantages for the Wildcats.
"There are some advantages, but you still have to go play and execute," head coach Kristi Knight said. "Golf is a little bit of a different animal, but certainly you'd hope that we'll be able to take advantage of a little bit more of a comfort level on some of the holes."
According to Misenhelter, relying on those advantages is something she steers clear of, as she believes it puts an extra pressure on the competition.
"When you feel like, 'Oh, I know Colbert Hills so well, I know I can play well here,' it's just a different type of pressure," Misenhelter said. "You kind of just have to escape that and know where to place the golf ball on this course and use past knowledge to propel you to get a good score. You can't put that pressure of 'I know this golf course better than anyone out here' on yourself."
On Sept. 9-10, K-State opened its 2013-14 campaign with a trip to the Ptarmigan Ram Classic in Fort Collins, Colo., and finished in a tie for eighth place.
"There were plenty of opportunities for someone to get upset, lose their cool or let a bad shot carry on over into the next hole and I didn't see that," Knight said about the team's performance. "I thought they did a pretty good job at Colorado State in staying poised and handling the adversity."
The team was led in the event by a solid performance from junior Olivia Eliasson, who finished in 13th place after shooting a career-best 3-under par 69 in the second round.
"Olivia is somebody that's really come a long way since her arrival two years ago," Knight said about Eliasson. "Last spring, she really saw improvement in her game and in her scores. She was our low finisher in four of the six events we played in. I think she's developed more of a comfort level here in Manhattan and started seeing some improvement in her game. She's just really developing as a player and I think her best golf is still ahead of her."
Competing today for the Wildcats is the same lineup that competed in Fort Collins: Misenhelter, Eliasson, junior Carly Ragains and freshmen Katherine Gravel-Coursol and Madison Talley. Additionally, Scotland Preston and Anne Willman will compete as individuals.
While two years ago K-State finished second in the event to Arkansas-Little Rock, Knight is confident in her 2013-14 squad and is excited to see what the rest of the season brings for the team.
"We're going to take one event at a time," Knight said about this season. "So many times in golf adversity happens - you hit a bad shot, you make a bad score on a hole. If you carry it around, it just affects the rest of your round. So my goal this season is that my team doesn't give too much emotion or energy to a bad shot - they happen - it's not what happens to you, it's how you handle it. That's the mindset that I want them to have."