Marissa Kroeger didn't believe a meniscus tear in June would erase her entire senior golf campaign at Chesterton, but the four-year varsity team member thought the surgery might leave some rust on her game.
A day after receiving medical clearance to return to the links, Kroeger shot a 78 at the Kankakee Valley Invitational. A week later, she recorded the best round of her life with a 72 at the Duneland Athletic Conference Invitational.
"I didn't know what to expect when I returned," said Kroeger, whose previous best round was a 76. "My goal was to maybe break 90 at K.V. (The DAC meet) was just amazing personally. In the past, I would have been ecstatic to shoot a 78 or a 79."
These scores seemed far off a few months ago when she hurt her knee. Kroeger said her knee has been through the wear and tear of 13 years in gymnastics, plus she injured the joint in middle school track. She believes those factors might have led to the pain she suffered after taking a simple step.
"I twisted on it kind of weird," Kroeger said. "I felt a pinch, and it hurt really bad. I knew something was wrong."
After the surgery, she was on crutches for five weeks — with no weight bearing on the leg at all. Then she was able to work within 60 yards on chips and putts for four weeks. She finally progressed to hitting from 150 yards out, and the met with her doctor for a final evaluation.
She continues to do rehab on the knee. Coach Dale Hewitt believes the entire experience has probably boosted her game.
"She's been able to come back a little more refreshed," Hewitt said. "She also had a chance to just concentrate on her short game. In the long run, it's become a blessing in disguise."
"I knew she would have a good senior campaign; she's a very driven person. I didn't expect to her to be back at full golfing capacity."
Kroeger continues to thrive, carding a 39 in Monday's DAC dual win at Crown Point. She trailed teammate and defending state medalist Kelly Grassel by only three strokes.
"I just have a lot more confidence," Kroeger said. "I feel like I can compete with the high-level golfers in the state."
Paired with Grassel, Kroeger might be part of the best 1-2 combinations in the area. Kroeger just wants to do what she can to help the Trojans make their fifth consecutive state appearance.
"I just want to be able to play steady golf for my team," she said. "I used this whole experience as motivation. There's some pressure, but I was able to triumph over what transpired the past few months. I just want to be a part of helping our team achieve something special."