By BRETT MARSHALL
It's always unpredictable when high school golf teams compete at Garden City's Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, with its challenges of wind, high native grass rough, narrow fairway and tricky greens.
The only predictable thing is that you can't figure out which individual or team will come out with the fewest mental scrapes with the tough Dunes layout.
Thursday, it was Lakin's Wyatt Burnett and Stanton County's Trojan team that survived another bout of elements thrown at them by the Dunes in the Hi-Plains League Tournament, with wet, chilly conditions early in the morning followed by a tough-enough northerly breeze.
Wyatt, a sophomore, shot a 9-over-par 81 to claim medalist honors by one shot over Cimarron's Mitch Chalkley, as none of the 45 golfers in the field could find their way into the 70s on the par-72 layout.
Stanton County, meanwhile, eked out a 1-stroke victory over Cimarron in the team race with a 354 to 355 total, while Syracuse was third at 363 in the eight-team field.
For Burnett, it was his first individual victory of the season, and the Broncs' sophomore was happy with the win — but less than thrilled with the way he played, especially his putting.
"My ball-striking was pretty good, my chipping was decent and my putting was pretty close to terrible," said Burnett, who took 36 strokes on the greens. "This course doesn't favor any certain golfer. You just can't step up there and hit it anywhere."
Burnett made the turn with an outgoing 41 and came back with a 40 on the back nine. Chalkley had a 39 on his front nine while Bluejay teammate Charlie Pfeifer led the way with a 38. But both faltered on the back nine, Chalkley shooting a 43 and Pfeifer a 47 to finish at 82 and 85.
"No birdies, which is always tough," Burnett said. "But I didn't have any double bogeys either and that was a big factor."
One of the biggest saves of the day came on his 17th hole, an uphill par-3, when Burnett ran a 30-foot birdie putt six feet past the hole, but answered by draining it to save par.
"That certainly made my round at the end," Burnett said. "It was about the only good putt I made all day."
For Stanton County, coach Marty Cook was more relieved than pleased with his team's scores, as Adrian Gum and Jeremy Amerin shared low scores at 85, the only two Trojans to break 90.
"It doesn't get any tighter than today's score," Cook said of the one-stroke win. "I knew we could compete with Cimarron and Lakin, but it always depends on how everyone plays. Today, we had just enough good to offset the bad."
The HPL was the final tune-up for all eight teams, which will compete Monday in regional tournaments. The Trojans host the Class 2A meet, where Syracuse, Elkhart, Sublette and Meade will battle it out for three team spots to reach the state tournament on May 20. Class 3A will be at Cimarron Golf Club, where the Bluejays will host Southwestern Heights, Lakin, as well as Phillipsburg and TMP-Marian of Hays.
Bluejay coach Lance Walker hopes that Monday will be different for his team.
"We kind of had a mix of things today," Walker said. "We played good on the front, not so good on the back. Steward (Fairbank) had his best round in some time (84), so that's encouraging. We hope the home course is an advantage. Certainly, this year provides us the best opportunity to get the team to state."
Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.