BOULDER — Not being able to play her best at the Class 5A state tournament has taken a toll on Fairview golfer Kelsey Webster, such a toll that last year's shortcomings on the big stage nearly caused her to walk away from golf.
But though the game she loved at one point became her greatest source of frustration and disappointment, quitting isn't in the Knights senior's DNA. Golf pushed Webster to her limits during the offseason and now one of Colorado's few true contenders for this spring's 5A state title is back tougher, better and more ready to win than ever before.
"The past three years, I've had really disappointing state tournaments," Webster said. "I've really never done well at state. Last year specifically, right when state happened was the beginning of a three- or four-month slump that was so tough I almost quit. I don't know why I didn't quit. I think I just love the game too much to do that. I was at a loss but I wasn't about to give up and I just kept going. Now I'm glad that I went through that because now it's only up from here.
"My game is the best that it's ever been before. I'm still working on my swing a little bit, but my short game and my putting are on point. I feel like I can make any putt, which is great because I've never felt that way before. I think that's the biggest difference from last season to now."
When she's on her game, the University of Colorado-bound Webster has what it takes to win a state championship. Given how she has struggled at state - placing ninth last season at the end of two rough days - Webster has spent the past several months working to ensure that she can show well on the scorecard even when she's not at her best. To that end, Webster recently attended a mental camp called Vision54, which teaches golfers mental skills to compliment their technique in order to achieve their best performances on the course.
That experience paid off on Tuesday when Webster overcame personal struggles and some windy conditions to shoot a 2-under 68 at Flatirons Golf Course and win the first Front Range League tournament of the season. The round gave her a lot of hope for what she can do this season when she does have her best game.
"Today was definitely frustrating because I did not have my A game," Webster said. "I was swinging with my B swing but I'm really working on my mental game so that I can be OK with that and work with what I have every day. I've struggled with that in the past and today, it was key for me to shoot a good number. I was grinding over every hole and I made a lot of 5- and 6-foot putt saves, which felt good."
So far this season, Webster has gotten better with each tournament she plays.
Webster shot a 79 at the Chilly Chili, a 76 at the Valor Christian Invite and then broke through with a 66 at Harmony Golf Club during the Lobo Invite before spring break. Back in action on Tuesday, she was at even-par before birdying two of the final five holes to finish two under. Her score was seven strokes lower than runner-up Leigha Devine from Fossil Ridge.
If Webster's confidence was damaged before, Fairview head coach John Zerwin is convinced that it's back and higher than ever heading into the final stretch of her senior campaign.
"I think she's finally starting to feel like she's caught up and she belongs with the girls that she's playing against, and I think that's a big piece of the puzzle for her," Zerwin said. "She's always kind of felt that because she came to golf later, that she's been behind. But I've told her that I think she's blown through the curve by now. She works her tail off and she's such a great leader to the younger girls that, as a coach, it's just been fun to be along for the ride."
Front Range League #1
At Flatirons G.C., par 70
Team scores — Fossil Ridge 325, Broomfield 351, Rocky Mountain 365, Fairview 392, Boulder 400, Monarch 401, Legacy 407, Horizon 420, Mountain Range 446.
Top individuals — 1. Kelsey Webster, Fairview, 68; 2. Leigha Devine, Fossil Ridge, 75; 3. Kayla Elder, Fossil Ridge, 78; 4. Anna Roh, Broomfield, 80; t5. Gabi Werst, Fossil Ridge, 83; t5. Lauren Hirsch, Broomfield, 83; 7. Alisha Butki, Rocky Mountain, 86; 8. Hailey Nelson, Fossil Ridge, 89; t9. Nicole Fatovic, Broomfield, 90; t9. Morgan Gilmore, Horizon, 90; t9. Mia Blackard, Legacy, 90.
Other Broomfield results — t18. McKyln Madsen 98; 24. Vicki Fankell 103
Other Fairview results — t18. Baeli Wein 98; t37. Anna Bergman 113; t37. Alana Kihn 113; 44. Autumn Choka 124.
Other Legacy results — t25. Tara Reid 104; t25. Maile Harris 104; t30. Paige Stevens 109; t33. Jessica Whitcomb 111.
Boulder results — t12. Sydney Arthur 91; t20. Claire Boyle 99; 22. Laura Osborne 100; 32. Katie Bush 110; 42. Emily Bush 115.
Monarch results — t14. Yulim Kim 92; t20. Peyton Korte 99; 23. Jamie Thompson 102; 29. Avery Golder 108; 36. McKenna Denny 112.