Waiting for the final scores to come in during the 2016 Kansas 6A state golf tournament was agony for Gardner Edgerton’s Mia Tovkach.
One year earlier, as a freshman phenom, Tovkach stormed her way to the individual gold at state.
There was nowhere to go but down.
“Last year, she probably had a two-hour wait, so we were just watching scores come in,” Trailblazers coach Amy VanRheen said. “You had to just hope on the last hole that girl didn’t make a putt and we’d have a chance for a playoff. It was a one-stroke difference.”
Instead, Washburn Rural’s Megan Lucas birdied the last hole, leaving Tovkach to settle for second place during her sophomore season.
Obviously, Tovkach had set a high bar for herself, but she was determined to clear it again and it became, in some ways, her sole motivation.
“In the back of my mind, that’s always what I was thinking about,” Tovkach said. “I was looking towards state and trying to get better.”
She wanted to reclaim individual gold.
“We talked about it and tried not to focus on it, because that’s a big thing to put on somebody: to say that’s your goal for the whole year,” VanRheen said. “That’s a lot of pressure.”
With Kansas’ one-round state format, the tourney becomes a crapshoot — who’s the best on a particular day under particular conditions at a particular course?
The answer on Monday, Oct. 16, at Mariah Hills Golf Course in Dodge City was Tovkach for the second time in three seasons.
Tovkach shot even-par 72 and finished three strokes better than runner-up Abigail Glynn of Washburn Rural.
“My game was just working together that day,” Tovkach said. “My drive, the ball goes high and far, so the wind was taking it. I had to adjust with my approach shot, but my chipping and putting was good on that day, too.
“I felt a lot of pressure last year. I wish I’d play better, but we all have our days. But I was on a mission to reclaim that state title this year.”
Tovkach, who won an East Kansas League title as a freshman in 2015 and won Sunflower League and regional titles this season as a junior, started her love of golf at 8 years old.
She accompanied her dad, Vitaly, to her brother Trystan’s practice one day and showed an aptitude for the game.
“My dad saw that I had talent, and he got me into it,” Tovkach said.
Soon, she started working with Stan Thirsk, who served as Hall of Famer Tom Watson’s coach early in his career at Kansas City Country Club.
“(Thirsk) taught me all the basics, and I’ve gone from there,” Tovkach said.
“She’s definitely a coach’s dream,” VanRheen said. “I didn’t do anything to make her, but it’s fun to be around a kid who is that talented. I’ve been coaching golf the last 15 years, and it’s fun to watch kids who are that good.”
Of course, Tovkach still isn’t done.
She was thrilled to win state for a second time, but she was equally thrilled with Gardner Edgerton’s school-record sixth-place finish as a team.
“Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t know anything about state or regionals and how sports work in high school,” Tovkach said. “It’s cool to accomplish something with your team.”
Don’t expect Tovkach to rest on the two state crowns she’s already won either.
“I don’t think much of it, because I still have one more year,” she said. I’m already thinking about next year.”