When Miranda McKeeth tapped in her par putt Monday, she received applause from everyone who watched the New Ulm golfer complete her round.
In part, those around the No. 18 green were acknowledging Miranda’s accomplishments on the course. Mostly, it was what the sophomore on the New Ulm girls’ golf team endured to even make it to the final hole of the sub-section meet.
Just hours before, it looked like Miranda might not finish her round.
Playing in the final girls’ group at Prairie View Golf Links, Miranda had just shot a 44 on the front nine and was making the turn.
After a bogey on No. 10, Miranda and her fellow golfers moved to the 11th hole.
It was then when Miranda’s round was changed.
“I just got done hitting my second shot on No. 11,” Miranda explained. “I was standing, waiting for another girl in my group to hit her ball, and out of the middle of nowhere, this ball comes and smacks me in the middle of the cheek. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I just got hit with a ball.’ Honest to God, it didn’t hurt right away.”
A stray tee shot from No. 12 had struck Miranda on the left side of her face.
“So I was like, ‘Oh my God, I just got hit with a ball in my face,’” Miranda said. “I was like, ‘Oh, jeez.’ And I got kind of dizzy and I had to sit down and then all the people around me were like, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ We got some ice and I felt like I had a golf ball on my face still because it was all swollen.”
A fellow golfer’s mother called for help. Ice was brought out to Miranda and an ambulance was called.
“Then we called the ambulance and the ambulance came and we got me on a golf cart and down here to the parking lot,” Miranda explained. “The police asked me a bunch of questions, basic, like how old are you and that type of thing.”
From there, the EMTs loaded Miranda into the ambulance and took her into Worthington to the emergency room. In the ER, all she was thinking about was her golf game.
“Then they got me onto the stretcher and into the ambulance and we got to the hospital and I sat there and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m really sad because now I can’t go to state,’” Miranda said. “There’s no chance.”
While she was thinking about a missed opportunity to advance to the section meet, her father and coach, Todd, had other things on his mind.
“My wife and I were both there, so we rode with,” Todd said. “They got ice out there and the police came out and picked her up in an ambulance and took her to the hospital. We didn’t think of anything else other than just making sure she was OK.”
Back in the ER, Miranda was still itching to get back to the course.
“I was like, ‘Dad, is there any way I can go back and finish my game?’” Miranda said. “He was like, ‘I’ll call back to the clubhouse and see if we can get it ruled on.’ So he called back and he said they were going to going to talk about it with the rules people. Then he came back here because he had to be with the rest of the girls for the team when they finished.”
Added Todd: “She had played well the first nine, and she was just sick about it in the hospital. The last thing I wanted to do was say, ‘Do you want to go back?’ She asked me. She said, ‘I’m going back to finish; I don’t care if the doctor says I can’t. I’m going back to finish that round.’”
Todd said he would try to get Miranda back on the course.
“Before we left, (another coach) said we were going to call the Minnesota State High School League and see if we can postpone her round and let her come back and finish,” Todd said. “When I got back they said they got the OK as long as she has the doctor’s excuse and she’s cleared, she can come back and finish if we don’t close the meet.”
After a call to the MSHSL, Todd had some good news to deliver to his daughter.
“So (Todd) called back to the hospital and he told us that I could still finish with a doctor’s approval,” Miranda said. “So I talked to the doctor and he said, ‘So far you don’t have any signs of a concussion, there’s no broken bones, no internal bleeding or anything,’ and I was pretty much free to go after a couple simple tests to make sure I didn’t have a concussion.”
After tests that included a CT scan, Miranda was released, and with doctor’s clearance, returned to Prairie View to complete her round.
“So I pretty much came back and I guess I had an applause when I was outside,” Miranda said. “I came back and I finally got to finish my round and I actually did really well considering I got pelted in the face with the golf ball.”
Miranda not only played well, she played nearly flawless.
Completing No. 11 and the rest of the back nine, Miranda played her final eight holes 4-over. She shot a 41 on the back nine, finishing with an 85 for the round.
“My dad came out and said, ‘Well, you could get 55 and still go on to sections,’” Miranda said. “I was like, ‘Really?’ I wasn’t expecting to shoot 41 on the back after a bogey on the first hole. I went out there and tried my best, and my best was good enough.”
It was better than that. She was the meet medalist.
“I went out there and my head was in the game and I felt like nobody else is here, nobody else can tell me I’m doing bad and I don’t have to deal with drama from other girls,” Miranda said. “I’ll just go out there and play my game, and I did.”
Todd couldn’t believe it.
“I didn’t expect her to be able to come back and play,” Miranda said. “I was so grateful that they made that call and said we’ll do it if she’s cleared and if she feels like it. She was just determined to do it. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
After completing her round and signing her scorecard, Miranda went to find a mirror. She wanted to see what her face looked like.
“I wanted to go see how black it was because they were like, ‘It’s going to look really nasty in a few hours.’ It’s already gotten a lot worse, color-wise,” Miranda said. “At first I told my mom that I looked like Frankenstein, then I switched it over to Quasimodo. I look like a monster right now, but it’s OK.”
With the left side of her face badly swollen and her eye turning numerous shades of black and blue, the sophomore thought what could have been.
“It’s funny because I got hit right here instead of in my eye – I could have been blinded,” Miranda said. “Or I could have been hit in the temple and I could have died. It’s a good story to tell and I still have my medical bracelet on to prove it.”
Even though the golfer who hit the ball that struck Miranda didn’t yell to warn of the stray shot, she doesn’t hold anything against her fellow competitor.
“They could have yelled ‘Fore,’ but she said she didn’t see where the ball went at all, and who would expect it to go all the way in another fairway?” Miranda said. “She came up and apologized for it afterwards and I was fine with it. I’m not hurt that much. It’s bruised, but big deal, it’s a bruise.”
Miranda will play Friday at the Section 3AA meet at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Willmar.
“I don’t know a lot of the girls from the teams that are going to be at the second day of sections,” Miranda said. “I think, pressure-wise, it’s not going to be that bad because I really don’t get pressured as much. The worst pressure is probably from myself, honestly. If I don’t do good I get upset, but I’ll think I’ll go up there and try my best and we’ll see how it goes.
“That would be awesome to get to state this year as a sophomore. That would be really cool.”
But no matter what happens Friday, Monday is a day that the McKeeth family will always remember and be thankful for.
In a letter to the Daily Globe, Todd wrote, “… I would like to extend my sincere thank you to all who were involved in her care. The mother of another golfer, who happened to have some EMT experience, that held my daughter and kept her calm and conscious. Another mother who made the phone call to get help out to us quickly. The police and ambulance people that got her to the hospital quickly. The hospital staff that took care of her and made sure she was not in danger of any serious head trauma. And thank God for somehow making that ball hit where it did, rather than an inch higher.
To my surprise, when I returned to the golf course to check on the rest of my team, the coaches were not only asking how she was, but also were wondering if she thought she could return and continue to play. They had contacted the MSHSL to check, and had received permission to allow her to finish her round as long as the meet had not been completed. This outpouring of compassion and sportsmanship was overwhelming. Miranda was cleared by the doctor to play, and she wanted to finish. She was greeted by the players with an applause upon returning to the course.
Miranda did finish, and qualified to move on to the Section meet on Friday. This could not have happened had it not been for the assistance of so many people involved. It is a day our family will never forget. The golf was good – but the heartfelt compassion shown first for her well being, and secondly to her as a competitor is beyond my expression.”