Struggle at the Dunes
By BRETT MARSHALL
When Walker Frey assumed the coaching duties of the Garden City High School boys golf team less than two months ago, he knew he had a major reconstruction job with the Buffaloes' program.
That was due in part to the Buffs losing all but one of their varsity golfers from 2012.
On Saturday, playing in their own invitational at Buffalo Dunes as well as their season opener, the Buffs struggled mightily on the wind-swept links layout.
The Buffs tied for seventh with Western Athletic Conference opponent Great Bend with a 367 (four scores count of six players) but earned the higher team place with a lower fifth score.
Junior Austin Swender, the lone returner for the Buffs, also was the only GCHS golfer to break 85, finishing with an 83, which placed him in a tie for ninth in the individual standings.
Dodge City, favored once again in the WAC as well as in Class 6A, fired a steady 316 to win by 21 shots over Hutchinson, which was at 337 and Hays High at 339. Derby and Maize rounded out the top five with scores of 342 and 344.
Kale Reynolds of Maize garnered medalist honors after winning a sudden death playoff from Dodge City's Brad Hutton. The pair had fashioned 6-over-par 78s in cool conditions when the tournament teed off at 9 a.m. accompanied by 25-30 mph wind.
"I wanted the scores to be better, but the thing I was encouraged about was none of them threw in the towel," Frey said of his team.
Mitch Moore was next with a 93, Tristan Corrales had a 95, Tucker Schiffelbein and Parker Tanner had 96s and Lucas Goss a 98.
"They all played better on their final nine holes," Frey said. "With this young team, it's a process. This is just the beginning. I just want to see them get better every day. If we do that, there's some light at the end of the tunnel."
For Swender, the day was one in which he did all he could to salvage a tough start to his round.
Starting at the first tee, Swender saw his round potentially derailed with a 9 on the par-4 third hole. His tee shot was far left, and his approach shot to the green clipped a tree and the ball was eventually lost. The 2-shot penalty was costly.
"For the most part, I felt comfortable playing," Swender said. "I had a few bad holes, and I didn't have my putting going. On the back nine, I had it going pretty good."
In fact, Swender played the other 17 holes in 6-over-par. But he refused to blame his play on the windy conditions.
"It's been like that a lot when we play out here," Swender said of the wind. "We should be used to it, and I won't use that as an excuse."
The junior said his tee shots and iron play were the stronger parts of his game, while the putter (39 putts) left something to be desired.
"It (putting) just didn't feel good at all most of the day," Swender said. "It's something I can go back and work on for sure. It was nice to get out and play competitively again and see how I'm doing. I've got to learn from my mistakes and just go out and play the way I know I can."
Frey also was happy with the way Swender kept his round together (45 on the front 9, 38 on the back).
"It's tough to stay focused after a hole like he had," Frey said. "He did a good job of putting it aside and moving on. I thought his 2-over on the back nine was really good."
The Buffs travel to Guymon, Okla., on Friday for their next tournament.