Cimarron's Ast shares title at 3-2-1A golf
by KEVIN THOMPSON
It was one of those bizarre twists of fate that will make Monday's Class 3-2-1A state girls golf tournament a memorable one.
In what might be an unprecedented ruling, two girls were awarded co-champion status.
As darkness fell heavily at The Golf Club at Southwind on the second playoff hole, neither Cimarron's Jessica Ast nor Cheney's Brooklyn Lonker could see the cup. After both walked off with double bogeys, a rulings committee allowed them to settle for the title rather than come back Tuesday to continue the playoff.
As a result, Ast reached a goal of hers, to be a state champion, even if the road to the title was a shared one.
She also helped her team to a third-place finish at 415, just 15 strokes behind Cheney and eight behind Caney Valley.
Play started after a half hour delay due to frost, setting back everything, including playoffs.
"I've never played in the dark like this, not even for fun," Ast said. "But it's a great experience and a great feeling having to tie for a win, at least."
Ast, a senior playing in just her second season, fired a 44 on her front nine and 43 on the back for her 87 total.
Shooting in the 80s Monday was her target, she said, especially since she had never done that in her two years of playing tournaments.
"I've been so blessed," she added. "It's been a great experience and a great season."
The 87 could have been better. Ast took a two-stroke penalty on No. 7 when she unintentionally grounded her club in a hazard.
She also made a triple-bogey on the par-5 10th hole, but she said she left those memories on the green and focused on the holes ahead.
At No.-14, she sank a 40-footer up a swale, then downhill, with a right break.
She had a chance on 18 but left her par putt inches short, forcing the playoff.
Both Ast and Lonker bogeyed the first playoff hole, the par-3 ninth.
On the next, No. 1, Lonker hit her tee shot right. As the sun set, the gallery turned to ball searching, but she had to take a penalty drop and eventually settled for a double bogey.
Ast drove down the middle, left herself a short pitch that landed past the hole, but she missed her par putt down hill, then missed a two-footer coming back.
For Cimarron coach Charlie Harp, things couldn't have gone any better.
"I felt like, if we played well after regionals, we might have a chance to maybe have a chance for first or second," he said. "I'm really proud of the girls, considering we had only one player back from last year."
His team started out nervously excited, he said, but they settled down to shoot what they needed.
Cimarron's score of 415 came with first-year player Morgan Ediger carding a 95, placing eighth.
"My tee shots were the key to my day," the former tennis player said. "I hit them in the fairway and that helped set up the rest of my shots."
Kiah Rash of Syracuse came into the state tournament with hopes of an individual title after finishing second a year ago, but she settled for third after firing a 90. An eight on hole 10 and a double bogey with a drop on No. 17 took her out of the title hunt.
But the senior knew she had it in her, just not on this day.
"I'm not upset that I shot a 90," Rash said. "I'm upset because I threw so many strokes away, and every stroke matters when it comes down to this."
That was very true on No. 17, when her tee shot landed on the sandy cart path. She didn't take enough club on her second shot, and it ended up in the gunch, and she had to take a drop back on the path.
"I had a decision whether I wanted to take the risk and hit it or play a smarter move and pull it out," she said. "But there's no reason to play the hero."
Rash will golf for Kansas Wesleyan University next year, joining her sister, Kami, a state winner in 2009.
Kenzie Becker of Holcomb shot 94 to place sixth, while teammate Olivia Ortega finished 11th with a 97 for the Longhorns, who finished sixth (428).
After a rough first hole, Becker said she settled in to score pars and bogeys, and the back nine played well for her.
Playing in her third state tournament, she said she was happy to play in front of a home crowd and shoot her personal best score.
"My previous state tournaments, I haven't done so well," the senior said. "But I kept my head in the game and didn't get nervous."
Ortega found the back nine tough after her front nine felt solid, she said.
"I was hoping to break 100 because I haven't done that for over three weeks," the senior added. "It felt good."
The other area medalist was Lakin's McKayla Hendrix, who finished tied for 19th.
Lakin, the host school, finished eighth at 439.