By KEVIN THOMPSON
SYRACUSE — With a regional meet just two weeks away, Tuesday's regular season meet at Tamarisk Golf Course in Syracuse was a good test of the course and the competition.
The Bulldogs host the 2A regional on May 14, and a number of schools here Tuesday return for a shot at state.
Which course they'll see, however, remains to be seen.
Unusually placid conditions, perfect fairways and receptive greens were the norm Tuesday, but what the weather will do in a regional is hard to predict.
Stanton County won the team title, taking three individual top-10s en route to a 327, 10 strokes better than Trego-Wakeeny, which passed up a meet in Smokey Valley on Monday to test the tamarisk-lined course they will return to play for regionals.
Cameron Staples of Trego found the course to his liking, firing a 4-over 76 to beat out Cimarron's Mitch Chalkley by two strokes.
Stanton County got a fourth place from senior Broc Ellis (79), fifth from sophomore Gage Martin (80) and seventh from senior Seth Holliday (81) on a course they know well.
"We've got a lot of experience, and we're playing well," coach Marty Cook said. "We stay out of trouble, they work hard during the summer, and it's starting to hit home now."
With the number of good teams in the area and what will be coming to the regional, Cook said his Trojans have no choice but to play well.
"We have to bear down every week and play hard," he added. "They had a bad start today, but they fought back and played well."
Cook had two players who were a combined plus-15 after the first five or six holes but they ended up shooting 79 and 80.
"With our start today, we know we can come back," Cook said. "That helps our confidence."
That means the birdies were out there for the taking, Syracuse coach Rick Mathias said, especially on such a benign course under ideal conditions.
"Literally, players caught the course playing like a lamb," he said. "When the wind is up, it plays a whole lot harder. Today, you hit it in the fairway, you're going to score. The greens were holding and rolling fine. They had the best they're going to be."
Mathias was hoping for a better finish on his team's home course. Syracuse's 342 was only five strokes out of second place, but he expected more.
"We needed to play better," he said. "We just haven't been putting things together. The expectation was to play a lot better."
The Bulldogs' Jace Coleman shot an 80 to place sixth, but he shot seven-over on four holes where he took penalty strokes. That was indicative of a sub-par round from the entire team, Mathias said.
The home course is usually an advantage, he said, but with such perfect conditions, the only edge his boys had was knowledge, and that wasn't enough.
Chalkley said his 78 was good for a course with tighter fairways than Cimarron, where he won a week ago, but it also set up well for his game, which is fairways over power.
"Swing easier to get a better tempo down the middle of the fairway," he explained. He only took one penalty stroke in 18 holes, so his accuracy was definitely a plus on this course. He called that miscue "an arrogant tee shot" with too much power, but he was able to recover just fine.
Stanton County's three seniors have played varsity all four years and are coming off a fifth-place finish at state last year. That experience will be a key to coming back for the regional.
"This is a good start. It's a good confidence builder," Cook said of his team's preparation for regionals. "We wanted to post a good score and show everybody else we mean business."
That sends a message, Cook added; whether or not we do it two weeks from now, who knows.
Mathias said his regional will play like a mini-state tournament with the likes of Trego, Stanton County, Elkhart (all of whom beat Syracuse Tuesday), Meade, Ness City and Oakley.
"Everybody has to play their best that day," he said of the upcoming event. "There are going to be some players who can qualify in other regionals staying home in this one."