Burnett earns his own green jacket

4/12/2014

By Kevin Thompson

By Kevin Thompson

sports@gctelegram.com

LAKIN — Syracuse won the team title, and Wyatt Burnett of Lakin achieved two of his goals for the golf season.

The junior won his own meet Friday, and he did it with a 3-over 75, blitzing his previous best score by double digits.

It's only fitting that on day two of the Masters golf tournament that Burnett won the traditional green jacket that has become the "traveling trophy" of the Lakin Invitational, as the coat was dangling over his slight frame, and contrasted with the black shorts and white socks.

But who cares about style with the victory this sweet, right?

On a day that started out promising with just a slight breeze but turned a bit blustery midway into the first nine, Burnett fired a par 35 on the front nine and a 40 on the back to beat Ulysses' Austin Cantrell by four strokes.

"It's something I've wanted to do since my freshman year, and I haven't broken 89 until now," Burnett said.

He cited the better weather this year over last, when he really thought he had a chance to win this event but fell short, he said.

"I wanted it really bad and thought I was ready, and I just choked," he admitted of last year's meet. "I think I parred my first hole then and that was the only one."

Different year, different story. He parred the first five holes, then missed a 4-foot putt by an inch for par, but made up for it with a solid birdie from 4 feet out to finish his first nine.

"I was pretty happy to have that birdie to turn 35. I knew at that point that I was probably leading the tournament and honestly, I just wanted to follow it up with something decent," he said, setting his sights on a 37.

Despite starting with a bogey on the second nine and taking two more two holes later on a par 3 and par 4, Burnett said he forced himself to focus.

He hit a little knock-down shot straight into the wind over a tree on the other side of a ditch to take an even at the next par 3.

Two more bogeys later, after helping to look for lost balls threw off his focus a bit, he finished with a scramble par for a 40.

The key to his round was turning around his weakness from last year, Burnett said. Then, he won the league tournament, but with 42 putts. Now, he started the season with 30.

"Significantly less," he said. "It was my short game that killed me last year, and I knew that coming into this year."

Chandler Huddleston of Rolla and Adrian Gum of Stanton finished third and fourth with 81s.

On the team side, Syracuse used an 82 from Cameron Coleman, an 83 from Chase Keller, and an 88 from Tierney DeWitt to score a 347, 18 strokes better than runner-up Ulysses and 26 better than Stanton County.

Coach Rick Mathias was expecting slightly lower, but he'll take this as a starting point.

One varsity player was missing, and the wind was a bit stronger than expected, and the course coming out of winter was a bit rougher, he said.

"I'm pleased with the win," Mathias said. "The main thing I told them was we need to throw a number and let the chips fall where they may, and just go play and never give up. But I'm still pleased with the effort."

Despite the fifth, sixth and eighth individual spots, Mathias knows his team has a better short game for scoring than what they showed Friday.

"It's just the first time getting out and competing, being excited and wanting to do well," he explained.

Right now the Bulldogs don't have a standout player, he added, but the core players are playing consistently, which means they need to look for more from the 4-5-6 spots.

"It's early in the season," Mathias said. "We know that we have two tournaments early (Monday at Buffalo Dunes, weather permitting), but then we have an 11-day break and we know we can fix a lot of things and work on specifics."

The Lakin tournament features team pairs playing together, which makes it easier for coaches to follow their teams progress.

Mathias said his team has been known for average ball striking but a solid short game.

"This year we have better-than-average ball striking, so that's why I'm really excited that, when we're at the end, scores should be down," he said.

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