Making the turn

Centennial junior shifts focus to golf

October 10, 2007|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,SUN REPORTER

Audra McShane's eyes light up when she talks about her favorite sports moment.

It was during a recreation league basketball game when she was 12. With her team down by two points in the final seconds, she was fouled hard and crashed into the scorer's table. In tears, she stepped to the foul line for a one-and-one.

"I went up and made both. All my team came up and jumped on me - it was so exciting," she said.

It's a moment the Centennial junior will have to savor, because her days of creating memories on the basketball court are over. McShane, who was born with a heart defect called subaortic stenosis, was told by her doctor a little more than a year ago that she needed to give up basketball and lacrosse as a precautionary measure, because the sports could put her at risk for a sudden cardiac problem.

Golf - a sport she has played since she was 4 but was always secondary - has become her focus. She is in the midst of her third and best season as the No. 2 golfer on the Eagles' co-ed team.

"My all-time passion will always be basketball," said McShane, 16. "But ever since I couldn't play basketball, I decided golf would be the way to go, because it's fun and good for college."

McShane needed four-plus hours of surgery when she was 10 to remove a membrane below her aortic valve that was causing obstruction to the valve and leaks. The procedure enabled her to temporarily continue playing basketball along with lacrosse and golf.

But a routine exam in June 2006 revealed McShane had progressively increased obstruction of the aortic valve, as well as more leaking.

"Audra is not having any symptoms to cause her to be sick in any way," said Dr. Anne Murphy, an associate professor in pediatric cardiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, who has cared for McShane since she was 2. "But we are using the restriction as a precaution. It's tough for us to restrict kids, but we have published guidelines that we follow. It could be perfectly safe for Audra to continue playing, but we have to go with the knowledge we have."

Congenital heart defects occur in eight of every 1,000 births, according to the American Heart Association. Of infants and children with congenital heart defects diagnosed, about 14 percent have some kind of left heart obstruction.

Feeling fine after a freshman year in which she was named the junior varsity basketball team's Most Improved Player and played on attack for the JV lacrosse squad, McShane was in disbelief at the news she wouldn't be able to play those sports again.

"They said I probably won't be able to play sports, but they were going to check again," she said. "I thought it was not going to be true, but then they told me. I told my mom, `OK' and went to my room. It didn't really even hit me. I felt normal. And then, when the basketball season had come around - that's when it hit me."

McShane, a feisty 4-foot-11 point guard, was despondent over no longer being able to hassle for steals or hit three-pointers. To stay close to her friends on the basketball team, she became the team manager.

"I give her a lot of credit," said her father, Neil. "I thought she took it pretty well. She's a pretty strong kid. We noticed that when she went through the surgery. From that point on, Audra kind of learned to go by her own horn. She just said: `OK, I can't do this, so I'll do this.' "

Turning to golf, which she is permitted to play because it is less strenuous than basketball and lacrosse, has been a big help.

Instead of practicing golf once a week during the seasons she played the other sports, McShane, who can drive a ball 250 yards, now puts in two or three hours nearly every day. It has proven to be time well-spent; she has gone from a 9 handicap to a 4, consistently shooting in the upper 70s to low 80s.

Playing with the Stableford scoring system - which awards four points for a birdie, three for a par, two for a bogey and one for a double bogey - McShane's nine-hole average with Centennial went from 20.2 last year to 24.6 this season.

Her consistent play gave the Eagles the highest one-two scoring tandem in Howard County - Centennial senior Chris Wellde was the top performer - to lift the team to an 11-0 record for a second straight season, along with its first county tournament title last week. On Monday, she took third place among girls at the Class 4A-3A District V Tournament at Eisenhower Golf Course to qualify for the state tournament, which begins Oct. 22 at the University of Maryland.

Wellde said: "She's playing with much more confidence [this year]. ... When we have putting contests now, she beats me more than I beat her."

During the summer, she competed in four Elite Players Tour events and took two seconds and two thirds. At Cattail Creek, her home course, she beat out eight boys to win the junior club championship with two rounds of 77.

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