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Bulldogs finish 10th despite Michaela Loewen's 93.

Published 5/27/2014

By KEVIN THOMPSON

sports@gctelegram.com

There was no place like being near home for a number of area golfers as Ingalls hosted the state 1A boys golf tournament at The Golf Club at Southwind Tuesday.

Centralia won the team title with 372 strokes, just seven strokes ahead of Hodgeman County (379). Stockton was third with 387 shots.

Centralia's Ryan Vernon shot a 2-over par 73 to take the top honors, three strokes in front of Ashland's Corey McCann.

Rolla's Kolt Washburn finished third at 81.

The host Bulldogs finished at 438, tenth in the team competition.

Leading Ingalls was freshman Michaela Loewen, a girl who plays for the Bulldogs because Ingalls does not have a girls team in the fall.

Loewen, who finished third in the regional last week at Sharon Springs, made the turn at 44, but she struggled to a 49 on the back side.

That included a quadruple bogey on the par-5 15th hole after blocking her third shot into the shrubbery.

But she followed that with a birdie at the par-3 16th and finished bogey-bogey for a 93.

"It was nerve-racking at first, and then after a couple of holes I finally got used to it," Loewen said of playing in a state boys tournament.

"Guys always play hard, so you have to just more or less play like one of them," she said.

Loewen had to play from the men's tees all season, and she admits she doesn't have the length that most guys have, but she relies on hitting straight and using her short game.

"For the most part, my short game was what kept me in the game throughout the 18," Loewen said, acknowledging she was capable of shooting even lower than her front nine 44.

She could have used that short game later in the round, especially on the 15th, where she said the club slipped on her third shot.

"You've got to love when your hands get sweaty," she joked. "When I went to my backswing, my club turned in my hand."

She found redemption on the next hole for her lone birdie of the day.

Undaunted, Loewen is already planning her off-season.

"I need to work on my approach shots more, making them straighter," she said. "I need to work out more so I can hit farther."

Other Ingalls scores were junior Isaac Baxa (111), sophomore Ryan Millershaski (113), junior Cole Hoskinson (121) and senior Kyle Miller (135).

Sophomore Trae Bleumer withdrew with an injury.

Coach Mark Fisher was a little disappointed in his team's finish, but he was realistic in his expectations.

"This is a course where, if you get in trouble, you pay a penalty," he said.

He was impressed with Loewen's round, though not surprised.

"She's competed well all year. There's only been one meet where she hasn't medaled, so for a freshman girl, that's impressive, playing from the men's tees," Fisher said. "She has good composure."

Greeley County sent two golfers to the tournament. Zane Ward finished 56th (109) and Martin Veleta finished at 119.

"This was my first year of playing golf," Veleta said. "It was a good learning experience. I wish I would have done it all four years of high school."

Southwind was a great course to play, he added.

"It's always fun to play a hard course and challenge yourself more," he said.

Ward was playing his final season — his first on varsity — and called the experience "a happy one."

In Monday's practice round, he said, he shot 10 strokes better.

Coach Keith Slattery was pleased with his duo's showing.

"Martin just picked up clubs two months ago. Never played before and he's in the state tournament," Slattery said. "He hits off the tee well. If he had time to refine his short game, he'd be a lot better."

For Ward, it was a good reward for four seasons' work.

Tournament manager was Dave Novack, Ingalls coach and superintendent.

He said the Southwind staff made the meet run smoothly and the greens were in perfect condition. With some winter kill on the fairways, players were allowed to drop into good grass.

"I was really impressed with the kids. As frustrating as golf can be, it seemed that all the kids had good behavior and conduct," Novack said. "It was a good tournament."

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