Success hasn’t diminished Baylee Steele’s drive one bit.
As a freshman in 2017, she finished third individually at state, helping the Bulldogs tie for fourth. Last season, the Telegraph Golfer of the Year finished fifth, while the Bulldogs finished as Class A runner-up — the best team finish in school history.
That only added gasoline to Steele’s competitive fire.
"It’s given our team a drive," Steele said. "I don’t think we knew we were capable of. It’s given us a whole new motivation and confidence this year."
The second-place finish was made extra special, since it came in longtime head coach Jim Orcutt’s retirement year.
"It was a great experience that we’ve all have dreamed of," Steele said. "North Platte had not had a finish like that, so it was really cool to send Orcutt off like that."
Orcutt’s influence has impacted Steele’s career greatly and is something she’s thankful for.
"You can’t ask for a greater guy," Steele said. "I’ve never had coach care for me as much as him. He was willing to do anything for us and truly cared. He wanted to win as much as we did and he deserves so much credit (for last season)."
This season brings a familiar face in Matt Kaminski, who will slide over from assistant coach to head coach.
"Coach Kaminski is someone we’re all familiar with. He was my counselor in grade school and has been with us as an assistant," Steele said. "He’s great on the mental aspects and swing mechanics. His way of thinking has taught me so much. We’re all looking forward to continuing working with him and (assistant) coach (Ben) Lashley."
Motivated by 2018, Steele used the offseason to get back in the lab and hone her craft. Whether that meant hitting balls into a net at home in what she calls "the barn" or lessons with her swing coach in Omaha, Steele’s skill is no fluke.
"I’m blessed enough to have the opportunity to continue working on my game even in the winter when it can get pretty nasty here," Steele said.
The hours of practice have already paid dividends.
In August, Steele repeated as winner of the Junior Ambassador Classic. Then, North Platte began its season with a dual victory over three-time defending Class C state champions Ogallala. Most recently, Steele led the Bulldogs to a school-record for lowest team score with a 329 in a third-place finish against some of the best teams in the state on Tuesday at the Pius X Shootout in Lincoln.
The early results, along with a loaded roster which returns three of the five golfers that finished as Class A runner-up has Steele and the Bulldogs focused on the intangables, and thinking about what they need to do to build off their 2018 state performance.
"A big focus for us has been our attitude and toughness," Steele said. "That’s the biggest lesson we took from state. When we see bad weather, we want to say ‘yeah’ and fight through it. We want to be the toughest team out there."