Keeping it Weird: Tonganoxie High girls golf routine includes music parody
Music and sports have a certain bond.
Marching bands performing halftime shows and playing in between plays at football games. Pep bands rocking out in arenas and gymnasiums during basketball games.
Organists at Major League Baseball games playing walk-up music and more in the summer.
Then there are the athletes, whether they’re locked in before a game or match with their headphones or a baseball player strolling to the plate as the perfect walk-up song blares though out the park.
And then there’s golf.
The game of patience and focus is without music. No pep bands. No songs in-between holes.
The sport is without hype music — except when it comes to the Tonganoxie High girls golf team.
There’s no music on the course, but in the van ride to the meet, well, that’s a different story.
Asked what the group likes to listen to on meet days, Hayden York quickly mentioned the go-to song.
“Amish Paradise,” York said.
Yes, the tune that gets the team ready to go is a parody song “Weird Al” Yankovic made famous in the 1990s following the success of the Coolio’s Grammy award winning “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
It’s an interesting choice, but when you find something that works, you go with it.
“Sandburg even sings along to it,” York said about THS coach Doug Sandburg.
Tonganoxie finished third or better in all nine varsity tournaments. They won four of them, finished second in three and then third in two.
At a Class 4A regional Oct. 11 in Clay Center, THS finished in third place, ensuring the team a second state bid in three years. The top four teams at each of 4A’s three regional advance to state.
THS advanced to state for the first time in 2019 and was poised to do so again in 2020, but York had to bow out of the Holton Regional early due to COVID-19 quarantine rules for potential contact cases. York was only three holes into the regional. Then-senior Morgan Brusven finished third at Holton a year ago, but the Chieftains weren’t able to finish in the Top 4 and advance as a team.
This year, a Tonganoxie golfer again wasn’t able to finish. This time, it was sophomore Santiana Garcia, who nearly got to the halfway point of the meet before withdrawing due to an injury.
This time, Tonganoxie was able to finish with a low enough score to nab third and qualify for state.
Though the Chieftains have been successful every time they sing along in the school van with Weird Al before the meet, there appear to be some other keys to their success.
For York, teammates, training and just getting out to the courses more in the summer have been keys to a successful junior year. She won six consecutive individual titles and set a new school record low score in the process before finishing a regional runner-up on Oct. 10.
She also attributed current success to former teammates. Brusven, as well as others in the Class of 2020 such as Meghan Heskett and Kylie Rickard would drive York to practices and off-season work on the courses.
York first got interested in golf thanks to Tonganoxie Middle School physical education teachers LeAnn Bond and Phil Jones. When the PE class covered golf, a match was made.
“I just fell in love with it,” York said.
Senior Keerstin McNeely hasn’t been in golf mode quite as long as York, but she’s found success in a short amount of time.
She has played golf for the Chieftains for two years. “Sandburg bothered me constantly,” McNeely joked, noting that the THS coach talked to her during her freshman year often about joining the team. The THS senior suffered a broken ankle earlier in high school and didn’t play golf as an underclassmen, but “finally picked it up” heading into her junior year.
McNeely is one of two seniors on the squad this season, as Chilali Tanner is the other.
McNeely said the team has been successful because they have “supportive coaches who know what they’re talking about.”
She praised coaches Sandburg and Stephanie Wittman, as well as her teammates.
“I think it helps to be really close as a team,” McNeely said. “In rough patches we support each other.”
It’s also vital in golf to be patient. “You have to mellow out and slow down,” she explained.
The Mirror interviewed a York, McNeely and a few others Oct. 1 — a Friday — at Falcon Lakes Golf Course near Basehor.
McNeely said playing the Back Nine on a Friday at Falcon Lakes has been one of her favorite things to do while being a part of the THS golf family.
Garcia, a sophomore, also plays softball for the Chieftains.
“I feel like knowing softball helps me know golf,” she said. “They are different swings. Different motions, but they help each other.”
Something that’s also key, Garcia said, and can be traced back partially to those van sing-a-longs, is that interaction among golfers.
“I feel what really helps is atmosphere,” she said. “You play better in a good mood.”
For Emma Skelley, it was York who nudged her toward a golf career in eighth grade.
“She convinced me to do it my freshman year, so I did it then,” Skelley said.
In total, the Chieftains had four seniors, three juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen on this year’s team: seniors Chilali Tanner, Keerstin McNeely, Sydney Padfield and Katie Skinner; juniors Emma Skelley, Madeline Funk and Hayden York; sophomores Abby Clarkson, Bethany Overmiller, Santaina Garcia, Gage Slabaugh and Gabby Diaz; and freshmen Aubrey Padfield and Lydia Rafols. Manager is Brendan Bowlin.
The 4A state championship will start with some golfers teeing off at 9 a.m. Monday at Salina Municipal Golf course.
Clarkson will be the first THS golfer to tee off at state in Group 14 at 10 a.m. McNeely starts at 10:10 a.m. in Group 16 and Skelley at 10:20 a.m. in Group 18. Tanner is in Group 20 and starts at 10:30 a.m. and Garcia at 10:40 a.m. in Group 22.
York is in the 24th and final group and will tee off at 10:50 a.m.
All state qualifiers golfers will play 18 holes Monday, with the top teams and golfers to advance to Tuesday for a final 18 holes.