By GENE SCHINZEL
Special to The Telegram
HUTCHINSON — Ulysses' Brady Buxman had a couple of goals when he and his Ulysses Tigers teed it up for Monday's Class 4A state golf tournament at Prairie Dunes.
The biggest of those goals was to finish better than they did a year ago.
Buxman shot consecutive 38s on the back and front nines for a six-over-par 76, finishing seventh overall in the individual race while his team placed sixth with a score of 346.
"I regained my focus and got it back. I'm satisfied with it," Buxman said.
Buxman opened his round with a double bogey on the par-3 10th hole. But he quickly got back on track and played well on a course he played just once before.
"My goal all day was to hit fairways and hit greens," said Buxman, who made just two birdies but plenty of pars. "I wanted to hit the center of the green and see if I could make putts."
Buxman most recently shot an 86 at the regionals a week earlier.
Topeka Hayden's Justice Valdivia shot a three-under 32 on the back nine and was the only player to finish under par as he carded a 68 to claim individual medalist honors.
Valdivia, who also helped Hayden win its team title, was one stroke behind Wellington's defending state champion Myles Miller after nine holes. But Valdivia then birdied Nos. 10 and 12 to grab the lead, and secured the victory with back-to-back birdies on the final two holes.
"Getting birdies on 10 and 12 really helped me," said Valdivia. "I bogeyed eight and nine, so that really got me back on track."
Miller finished second with a 72 after taking a double bogey on the final hole and said he knew the situation he was in.
"I went for the green on 17 and 18. I knew what I had to do," Miller said. "I didn't play great. I got it around."
Miller, who has signed to play at Wichita State next season, hit a good drive on the par-5 17th and was only 120 yards from the green.
But he chunked his wedge shot into the greenside bunker and ended up taking a par.
Then on 18, he lost his ball after driving into the grass on the left side of the fairway.
Miller and Valdivia were both familiar with Prairie Dunes before Monday.
They played the Dunes last summer during the Kansas Amateur and the Kansas-Nebraska Junior Cup, and said that experience gave them an edge.
"That really helped because I knew where to hit the ball and what spots to go for," Valdivia said.
Valdivia had shot an 80 during regionals on what he said was a much easier course.
"He just played solid and putted well," said Hayden coach Dan Key. "He did not miss a shot today."
Valdivia led Hayden to a 321 team score, while Tonganoxie was second with a 332.
Wellington was third for the second straight year with a 334. Among area teams, Ulysses was sixth with a 346.
At Emporia Municipal Golf Course, Garrett Watkins shot an 80 to finish eighth individually and led the South Gray Rebels to a fifth-place finish in the Class 1A state tournament on Monday.
Trenton Holloway had an 82 to finish in 10th place as the Rebels had a team score of 349 while Ashland won the title with a score of 333.
Joey Morrisey of Pleasanton was the individual medalist with a 73.
Greeley County's team placed ninth with a score of 384. Clay Robertson was the Jackrabbits' low score with an 84 and AJ Govert was next with an 85.
At Salina Municipal Golf Course, Lakin's Alex Jones shot a 77 to finish tied for 18th individually in the Class 3A state tournament.
Sterling's Michael Gellerman was medalist with a 65 while Wichita Collegiate won its sixth straight team title with a 297 score.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.