EDWARDSVILLE — Emilee Flaugher still remembers her introduction to golf.
Now a senior at Edwardsville High School, Flaugher was visiting her grandparents in Florida a few years ago when one day, she was a little bored.
"I would take my grandmother's driver out and just see how far I could hit the ball,'' Flaugher said. "The (golf) professional was watching me one time and asked me if I played golf.
"When I told him I didn't, his response was 'Well, maybe you should.'''
Flaugher took that advice and ran with it.
Under the watchful eye of PGA instructor Bob Tays at Gateway National Golf Links, Flaugher became the top player on the best Class AA girls golf team in Southern Illinois at Edwardsville.
A four-year starter for coach Tresa LaBoube's Tigers squad, Flaugher ends her high school career as a three-time state tournament qualifier and two-time all-state player.
But when asked what she will remember most about her four years of high school golf, Flaugher's response was quick: the relationships with other players.
"I'm probably talking more about players from other teams," she said. "You play golf in the summer and you get to know each other and then if you see them at a tournament or in the regional or sectional, it's like 'How have you been? I haven't seen you in a while.'
"It's been a fun four years.''
On the golf course in 2013, Flaugher was the top Class AA player in Southern Illinois. Finishing with averages of 36.7 (9 holes) and 72.8 for 18 holes, Flaugher won three tournaments and concluded her career with a tie for fifth place at the Class AA state tournament at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur.
For that accomplishment, Flaugher has been named the Belleville News-Democrat Class AA Co-Player of the Year. Flaugher shares the honor with Nashville senior Shawn Rennegarbe.
The University of Virginia recruit will play for one of the top NCAA Division I women's golf programs in the nation. Her quick rise as one of the state's best players has come after just four years of playing the game on a serious level.
"I played soccer growing up and until my freshman year,'' Flaugher said. "I was going to go out my sophomore year but I improved so much in golf the summer between my freshman and sophomore years that I decided to just concentrate on golf.
"I loved playing soccer, but as far as college and after college, there are more opportunities in golf for me.''
Tigers coach Tresa LaBoube said Flaugher's success has come through dedication and hard work.
"Emilee has been a role model for all girls in the girls golf program by exhibiting her work ethic year after year. She has shown since her freshman year that you must work hard on your game in order to get to the next level,'' LaBoube said.
"Emilee came into the program as a beginning golfer and worked extremely hard to be at her best in her senior year.''
Flaugher's success at state this season didn't come as a big surprise. Seventh in the 2012 rain-shortened state finals when she shot a 76, Flaugher arrived in Decatur this fall with an optimistic, yet realistic thought process.
"My sophomore year when I placed 45th, I was there for the experience. I remember thinking I don't belong with these players,'' Flaugher said. "Then last year I was thinking I've got a chance to be in the top 10 and I placed seventh.
"This year I was thinking, If I play well. I've got a chance to win it.''
Her first-round 72 did little to erase that outlook. In third place, Flaugher was in the hunt.
"The first round was just solid. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. I didn't make many putts, but that's been one of the weakest parts of my game.'' Flaugher said. "Going out on the Day 2, I'm like, 'I can do this.'''
But a pair of double bogeys ended that hope and Flaugher went on to shoot 78, finish with a 36-hole total of 150 and a tie for the fifth-place medal.
Flaugher will graduate from Edwardsville in January and will spend some time in Florida working on her game before beginning college in August.