Two years ago, Ashton Taft shot a 129 in an invitational at Noble Hawk. It wasnt an uncharacteristically high score for the girl who had just taken up golf.
This year, in the same invitational, she posted an 80, not an uncharacteristically low score for the much improved, newly crowned SAC champion.
Thats what you need to know about Taft: Shes driven to succeed.
A 49-stroke improvement in the course of two years is incredible, said Ryan Gould, Tafts coach at Snider. She works hard, never takes a day off. Saturdays and Sundays, if we dont have a match, shes playing somewhere. Shes as dedicated to golf as any athlete in our school is (to their sport).
Taft, 17, won the SAC Tournament on Saturday, shooting an 84 at McMillen Park and defeating Concordias Kelsey Robertson in a two-hole playoff.
I was overcome with emotion that day. I knew Id played good that day. But I couldnt putt as well as Id wanted to – until, then, I got it working, Taft said.
Me and Kelsey were both shaking with nerves (in the playoff). Everyone was crowded around the tees watching us. I just had to pull it together.
Concordia edged Snider for first place in the tournament, but the Panthers were 6-0 in dual matches, so they are SAC co-champions.
Taft is no stranger to leading her team. In the 12 SAC dual matches shes played over the last two seasons, shes been the medalist in all but one of them.
Taft, who averaged 42 strokes per nine-hole match, is comfortable being the Panthers No. 1 player, charged with giving them a score low enough every match for them to have a chance to win.
I try not to think about it too much, so I can stay focused on my game, she said. But you want to do good for the team. I dont want to let the team down, so I try to do the best I can.
The Panthers, who will compete in a sectional at Zollner in Angola on Saturday, have a lineup that includes Jessica Peppler, Christina Doell, Kelly Sullivan and Erin Voss.
When (Taft) finishes, we can usually count on having a 3- to 6-stroke lead, Gould said. To have that first person go out there and set the tone for the team, shes going to get the job done every day. The lowest she shot this year was a 38 and the highest was a 45.
A lot of Tafts consistency can be traced to all the hard work shes put in – she practiced almost every day at Lakeside Golf Course over the summer, and she competed in 17 tournaments.
While some players might have quit after shooting in the 120s, she accepted it as a challenge and succeeded.
I just fell in love with golf, she said. I played basketball and track and cross country. But I didnt feel I could be good at any of them.
Two years later, shes a conference champion in golf.