Area golfers ready for state tournaments across Kansas
By BRETT MARSHALL
The 2014 golf season for area high schools comes to a close on Tuesday when state championships are conducted across Kansas for all classifications.
Garden City's Buffaloes earned the final team qualifying spot at last week's 6A regional in Wichita, and will travel across the state to play at Topeka Country Club.
Ingalls will serve as the host school for Class 1A, which will be played at The Golf Club at Southwind. Syracuse's Bulldogs will represent the area in Class 2A at Fort Hays State Municipal Golf Course, while Cimarron, which won the 3A regional at Joyce Hamm Golf Course in Plains, heads to Cheney and will compete at Cherry Oaks Golf Course. In Class 4A, a pair of area individuals will tee it up at Firekeeper Golf Course in Mayetta, north of Topeka.
Garden City edged rival Dodge City by one shot for the final team qualifying spot at Sim Park Golf Course.
Leading the way was freshman Taylor Larsen, the 2014 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Larsen shot an 81 in blustery conditions, and finished fifth in the individual standings. Junior Connor Schultz followed with an 87, while freshman Logan Durst and senior Austin Swender had 88s. Also competing for the Buffs will be Tucker Schiffelbein and Lucas Goss.
It's been a learning curve for coach Walker Frey's youthful Buffs, with just two seniors dotting the roster.
"We've had some tournaments where we've played really well and shot in the low 300s," Frey said on Sunday. "And we've had other tournaments where we've struggled and shot in the 340s. If we can get the kids to keep the ball in the fairway off the tee, we'll have a lot better chance to shoot some lower scores."
Frey said that Larsen had developed into the team leader despite just being a freshman.
"He's got a lot of tournament experience and that has really helped him this season," Frey said of his left-handed freshman. "He's been close to a couple of really low scores, so if we can get a snowball effect through the other players, I'm hopeful that we can get into the upper half of the field."
There are 12 teams competing in the one-day. 18-hole event. Three trophies are awarded, and the top 20 individuals score medals.
Ulysses' Austin Cantrell shot an 80 at Sugar Hills Country Club in Goodland to punch his individual ticket to the state tournament at Firekeeper. He will be joined by teammate Jake Epperson. Also earning a spot in the individual competition was Scott City's Marshal Hutchins, who had an 88 to earn one of the final spots.
Cimarron's boys ran away with the regional team title at Plains, finishing with a 336 team total, which was 33 shots ahead of runner-up Cheney's 369.
Leading the way was medalist Charlie Pfeifer, whose 72 was seven shots in front of Chaparral's Tanner Walker's 79.
Lakin's Wyatt Burnett earned one of the individual qualifying positions with an 85. Holcomb's Brayden Showalter also qualified as an individual for state.
Other Cimarron team members include freshman Blake Neuschafer, seniors Caleb Fischer and Jordan Beck, and freshmen Wyatt Bell and Hunter Dewey.
Tee times will begin at 8:30 a.m. with final groups slated to tee off at approximately 10:30 a.m.
It's been a bit of a roller-coaster year for veteran coach Rick Mathias and his Syracuse Bulldogs. Only on a couple of occasions has he seen his team's potential across the six players appear.
But the Bulldogs were just good enough in the 2A regional at Buffalo Dunes to earn a trip to the state tournament, which almost seems like an annual happening these days.
"This whole crew was there (at state) last year," Mathias said on Sunday in a telephone interview. "We got 'em there, and wanted them to learn as much about state as possible."
The result was a sixth-place finish in the 12-team race, and Mathias said he's looking to move up the ladder.
"They know what to expect, and I believe if we play the way we can, we'll be pushing for a top-three position," Mathias said. "I'm excited about the trip. We've practiced well this past week. It's just the experience factor of playing under the gun."
Junior Chase Keller has been the team's best player in the last couple of weeks, highlighted by a tie for first and then losing a playoff for medalist honors at the Dunes with a 77. Cameron Coleman, who had been the No. 1 player for Mathias, came in with an 83, while Chandler Howell, Tierney DeWitt, Ira Kullot and Jake Phillips round out the team. DeWitt is the lone senior on the team.
"Chase has changed his approach to playing the game tremendously," Mathias said. "He's a confident golfer. He's being pushed by Cameron and they push each other hard, and have both helped each other. I still think we're a much better team than we were a year ago."
Individuals who qualified from area schools include Stanton County's Gage Martin and Jeremy Amerin, and Wichita County's Spencer Thurman.
Play begins off both Nos. 1 and 10 at 8:30 a.m., with the final times set for approximately 10:20 a.m.
Ingalls captured the runner-up team spot at last week's regional qualifying in Sharon Springs, and the Bulldogs will bring a youthful squad into the final tournament of the year.
One of the compelling stories for the Bulldogs is that of freshman Michaela Loewen, a girl who competes for the boys team since there is no girls golf team at the school.
All she did last week at regionals was shoot an 82 and place third individually to lead the team to its runner-up finish. Also competing for coach Mark Fisher are sophomores Ryan Millershaski and Trae Bleumer, juniors Cole Haskinson and Isaac Baxa, with Kyler Miller being the lone senior.
Tee times will begin at 9 a.m. off both Nos. 1 and 10 tees, with the lowest scores from regionals teeing off last at approximately 10:40 a.m. Twelve teams will be vying for the state championship, with teams entered from Centralia, Baileyville B B, Valley Heights, Ashland, Chetopa, Marmaton Valley, Sharon Springs, Rolla, Osborne, Hodgeman County and Stockton.
Greeley County's Jackrabbits will be represented by two individuals in seniors Zane Ward and Martin Veleta.
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