By BRETT MARSHALL
CIMARRON - For much of the golf season, Lakin sophomores Christian Blackburn and Michael Leach have heard the directives of coach Travis McAtee that even though they were listed as the No. 5 and 6 players on the Broncs team, it was important for them to believe their scores were needed to be good. Monday, Blackburn and Leach saw their scores figure prominently in helping the Broncs to a team-winning 328 total at Cimarron Golf Club.
Blackburn finished with an 82 and Leach shot an 86. The victory is the school's sixth Class 3A regional title in the last decade, and advances the Broncs to the state tournament at Smoky Hill Country Club in Hays. "I've been harping on those two all season that their scores are important, whether or not they count," McAtee said. "I think now they might finally understand what I've been saying." The sophomores combined with senior Chris Ramos (82) and individual runner-up Alex Jones (78) to help the Broncs win the championship. Fellow Hi-Plains League member Southwestern Heights claimed second place with a score of 354. The Mustangs were paced by Wes Winfrey, who also shot a 78 and defeated Jones on the first hole of sudden death to claim medalist honors. "It's just a great day for us and winning the individual is like a bonus for me," said Winfrey, who will play football at Garden City Community College in the fall.
"I was worried early because I didn't get off to a very good start and then I bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes." Following 11 holes Winfrey settled down and played even-par golf for the remaining seven holes. The key was a tap-in birdie from 18 inches on the 310-yard, No. 16 hole. "I just stiffed it," Winfrey said of his wedge shot on the hole. "It's just such a great feeling to know that my hard work has been paying off. I've improved so much this season. I've just been playing smarter, hitting better approach shots and the rest of the game has just come along." While Winfrey celebrated his individual title and team's qualifying, Jones was able to enjoy his day and celebrate the Broncs' team win. "I played good today," Jones said of his round. "I knew Chris was down a little so I just tried to make birdies and get pars." Jones had to overcome a near-disastrous four-putt on his third hole of the day. "It was the first time all year," Jones said of his rare putting display. "We knew we had a good chance coming in and we were just able to get it done." McAtee said the Broncs breaking 330 was a good sign of the team's balance and that they would need to be around the 320 mark or lower next week to compete for the title. "We've just got to have all six playing their best and see what happens," McAtee said. "But I think today shows that we've got players capable of helping out no matter what place they're playing in." Cimarron's Genare Woofter shot an 86 to tie with three others and then won a playoff for seventh and he will advance individually to the state tourney next week.
At Dodge City, the Syracuse Bulldogs found themselves seven shots behind Hutchinson Trinity at the halfway point of the Class 2A regional tournament at Mariah Hills Golf Course. But for one of the few times all season, the Bulldogs improved on the final nine holes and rallied to post a six stroke victory over the Celtics and earn a return trip to the state tournament at Crestwood Country Club in Pittsburg.
Syracuse finished with a team score of 338. "I'm very happy that we won especially being down at the turn," Syracuse coach Rick Mathias said. "Usually they get worse, but today they battled on the back nine and it was really good to see them compete." The 13 stroke turnaround on the final nine holes was sparked by seniors Alex and Adam Zuzelski.
The twins finished first and second as individuals. Alex shot a 73 and Adam had a 79, winning a playoff for runner-up. Alex Zuzelski's six-shot triumph was his eighth individual win in nine tournaments and he was second by one shot in another event. "The big thing about Alex, especially in his last three tournaments, is that he's figured out how to score when his swing is not on," Mathias said. "He finished bogey-bogey or he would have been under par. He didn't like the way he finished, but he played very well." Stanton County shot a 379 and finished third to earn the final team spot in the state tournament. The Trojans were led by Seth Holliday's 91 and all six Trojans broke 100. Individually, Sublette's Angel Martinez qualified with a 90 (5th overall) as did Wichita County's Keegan Campas.
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At Russell, Ulysses' Anthony Delcorral shot an 80 to pace the Tigers to a 333 team score and the Class 4A regional championship at the Country Club. The victory qualifies the Tigers for the Class 4A state tournament at Hesston Golf Course.
In addition to Delcorral, Jacob Mendoza shot an 82, Brady Buxman an 84 and Alex Gustafson an 87 for the four counting scores. Jonah Pfingsten and Chris Malone rounded out the team scores with 94 and 111.
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At Dodge City Country Club, In the Class 1A regional, South Gray shot a 356 to place second and advance to the state tournament at Turkey Creek Golf Course in McPherson. Leading the Rebels was Dustin Kirby (85) and Garrett Watkins (86). Rounding out the four-man scores were Brett Bullinger (88) and Trenton Holloway (97).
Ashland won the team title by four shots with a 351. Ingalls' Slade Loewen had a 92 and earned a spot individually by placing among the five lowest scores of players who were not members of a qualifying team.
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In another Class 1A regional, Greeley County's Clay Robertson (75) and Arthur Govert (76) earned individual trips to the state tournament, but the Jackrabbits came up just short in qualifying as a team, finishing fourth (347) behind Wallace County's 345.
Hoxie and Ness City were first and second at 322 and 329. Weston Vogel of Ness City, Eric Shoendal of Wheatland/Grinnell and Skylar Rains of Wallace County all had 72s for the low round of the day with Vogel claiming the playoff for first place.