Being away from home for nearly seven weeks might not have been the hardest part of the summer for Rebecca Smith.

Being away from the golf course was a little more difficult.

The Columbus East senior spent 47 days in Merida, Mexico, studying in Indiana University’s honors foreign language program. The students were allowed one 10-minute phone call home at end of the first week and one hour of Internet each subsequent week. The rest of the time, they had to speak Spanish.

“We went to this little school, and they taught us all about grammar and culture and linguistics and literature,” Smith said. “Then, we went on excursions to different places in the region. We went to beaches and the Mayan Ruins and learned a lot of Spanish.”

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During her stay in Mexico, Smith played golf a grand total of one time. She rented a set of clubs and played with a kid in her host family. She shot 95.

“That was the first time I had touched a club in a month, so I was pretty happy with that,” Smith said.

These days, Smith’s rounds of golf are much better. She fired a career-best 1-over-par 73 to finish second in the Roncalli Invitational Aug. 29 at Smock. Saturday, she carded an 83 at Otter Creek to finish second in the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament.

“I think considering that I had not done that much preparation ahead of time because I was in Mexico, I’m pretty happy with how it’s been going,” Smith said.

“I had a pretty good round at Smock a couple weeks ago, and then I’ve had a couple good showings here and there for nine holes. I’m working toward sectional.”

“I think her senior year has been great,” East coach Troy Buntin said. “She didn’t play any summer golf, and she comes in here and has been very consistent.”

Smith, whose sister Caroline plays golf at Loyola of Chicago, isn’t sure if she’ll continue her career at the next level.

“I’m still weighing all of my options,” Smith said.

“I think I need to figure out what I want to major in and figure out what college I want to go to before I decide if I want to play golf or not.”

Rebecca Smith thinks she wants to be a doctor and may double major in Spanish and either biomedical engineering or biochemistry.

“I definitely want to keep Spanish in my life,” she said. “As a doctor, I can help people and talk to them in Spanish and English, depending on which one they actually know.”

The Olympians close the regular season today against Columbus North at Harrison Lake. On Saturday they’ll play in the Greensburg Sectional at Greensburg Country Club.

With a strong showing in next week’s regional, Rebecca Smith has a shot of qualifying for state as an individual for the first time.

“I said ‘If you play to the best of your ability, you can go to the state championship as an individual,’” Buntin said.

“We have two more weeks to buckle down and get everything dialed in.”

“I think I definitely have a shot at doing it if I have a good day,” Rebecca Smith said.

“Some days, I’ll have a good day, and some days, I’ll have a bad day. But I think if I can pull it together, I definitely have the skills to get there.”

If you go

What: Columbus East at Columbus North girls golf

When: 4 p.m. today

Where: Harrison Lake Country Club

Admission: Free

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.