By KEVIN THOMPSON
SYRACUSE — A senior knows how to take advantage of the situation, especially one who finished sixth in his state tournament a year ago.
He also knows how much of a difference one stroke can make in a golf competition.
Greeley County senior Clay Robertson used all of his experience to claim the title at the Syracuse Invitational on Tuesday by firing an 80 on the Tamarisk Golf Course layout, just one stroke better than a trio of other players.
Southwestern Heights won the team title with a 342 score, placing four golfers in the top 10. The Mustangs finished seven strokes better than Stanton County.
Lakin was third by virtue of a tie-breaker over Elkhart. Cimarron finished fifth over Holcomb by the same reason.
Robertson was a model of consistency as he made two tours of Tamarisk, shooting 40 both times.
Robertson said his strategy on the tight course was simple--stay between the tamaracks and minimize the three-putts.
He said he had a shot at the green nearly every hole, which meant he was leaving himself in good positions. On the Syracuse course, that translates into avoiding the trees.
"My putting was really bad, or else I would have shot quite a bit lower," he said.
He joked that he didn't keep track of how many putts he took this round because it was too depressing.
Still, he was happy with his overall game, improving the past two seasons in his all-around game and this year his distance is getting better.
It also helped, he added, that two of his playing partners kept him focused as they each finished just one stroke off.
Finishing with 81's were Jacob Mendoza of Ulysses, Broc Ellis of Stanton County and Jace Coleman of Syracuse.
Mendoza's score was remarkable because he was playing with damaged fingertips on his left, or grip, hand. Just three days ago he had a run-in with a table saw and nicked the tips.
Oddly enough, it wasn't really his hand that was the issue, it was three penalty strokes. He hit into the water at No. 8 and into the trees on Nos. 6 and 7.
Coleman, playing his home course, ran into a bit of bad luck near the end of his round.
On his approach to the seventh green, his ball found a bowl-sized pile of sand right next to a railroad tie to the right of the green. He had to play a drop, but he put that within a few feet of the hole. But that putt missed, and a par turned into a bogey.
He was in the foursome that included Robertson and Ellis, so he knew he had to stay focused and shoot well.
"I struck the ball well," he said. "I just wasn't making putts. I should have shot four strokes better."
Many of these teams will be playing at Ulysses on Saturday at Bentwood Golf Course.