If there was any doubt about School of the Osage junior Taylor Hayes' game on the golf course, they should now be put aside.
After another great season in the fall of 2013, the 16-year-old Osage Beach native Hayes advanced to the state match for her third year in a row, yet another opportunity to make history.
In this season, Hayes finished undefeated in nine-hole play, and was named the district champion for the third year in a row.
Not bad for a 16-year old, right?
But for Hayes, the golf "season" is nearly twice as long as other players.
"She plays all summer long," Brenda Hayes, Taylor's mother and high school golf coach said. "From June to October, I would guess she has less than ten days away from golfing. In the summer, she may have had five days off when she didn't have a golf club in her hands."
But it's a year-round preparation period for her, as she always finds something to work on. Even the winter, Taylor can be found working on her swing indoors.
Hayes' journey as a golfer began when she was 8 years old, playing in the Lake of the Ozarks Junior Golf Association during the summer as the only girl in the league at that time.
"Her brother was playing, and we took her to Eldon and gave her his old clubs," Brenda said. "And on the second hole, she hit really hard, and swung the club around so far that it hit her in the ankles and she started crying, saying 'I am not doing this anymore.'"
Years later, she has won numerous championships, including the MWGA Junior Golf 14-15 year old division, and last season, Hayes led the Lady Indians to Osage's first ever district title in girls' golf. In her three trips to state, she has finished in seventh (freshman year), fourth (sophomore) and fifth (junior).
Taylor's success can be attributed to a combination of her hard work and determination, and probably through genetics.
The genetics in question, however, are not those of Coach Brenda Hayes.
"Mom is not the player," Brenda said.
"She is the best bus driver anyone could ask for," Taylor added with a laugh.
Her father, Tory Hayes, is a local golf pro, and has imparted quite a few tips, tricks and techniques on to his family, which Taylor has been adding to her repertoire.
"Tory's the expert," Brenda said. "He's the one who works with her on the technical parts of her game."
"Every night after tournaments, we'll analyze each hole to see what I could've done better and how to improve it for next time," Taylor said. "The mental game is such an important part of the game."
Page 2 of 2 - Out of all the factors involved in the game, whether it is the weather, skill or luck, the mental game is the most important part. To give an idea of how much thought Taylor puts in to each hole, here's a rundown of how Taylor processes one hole:
"Sometimes, it's not the best choice to use your driver, and it depends on what shot you like into the green," Taylor said. "I prefer around 100 yards, and if it's a longer course, I'll use the driver, and if it's shorter, I use something like a 6-iron. Then you factor in the wind, and figure out where you don't want to hit it. It's all about figuring out if I mishit, where's the best place I can mishit and still be on the green."
Taylor's trips to play golf have taken her across the country, including tournaments in Texas and Mississippi.
It's a lot of hard work for a 16-year-old, but Hayes manages to balance golfing along with the typical homework and a number of activities, as she is the Executive Treasurer of Student Council and is a member of Future Business Leaders of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, KEY club, National Honor Society, Tribe, and Les Chanteurs show choir.
Taylor, apart from being a stellar golfer, is also an accomplished high school vocalist, as she went to state with a solo and two ensembles and made All-District choir this season, finishing a tournament and racing to Jefferson City to make it on time.
It takes skill to compete at the state level and knowledge of the game. The old saying is that with experience comes knowledge, and for three years in a row, Hayes has been adding more knowledge and improving her skills.
Her goal after high school is to play golf at the college level, and enjoy the traveling required of university golf teams.
But first, the goal is another trip to state with her senior season, and as Taylor explained, why do you compete if not to win it all?