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Keller, Syracuse 'kash' in

Published 5/19/2014

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

For a golfer to loathe a golf course at the start of the 2014 spring high school season, it would be difficult to describe the transformation into a near love-affair between Syracuse junior Chase Keller and Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.

But that's just about the way the past two golf seasons have been for the Bulldog golfer

On Monday, at the Class 2A regional tournament, Keller shot a 5-over-par 77, finished second individually after losing a one-hole playoff, but led his team to a third-place finish and thus a trip to the state tournament on May 27 at Fort Hays State University's Golf Course.

And while the Bulldogs slipped into the final team qualifying spot with a total of 345, it was Sterling and Ellinwood that led the way with scores of 328 and 343. Stanton County was in fourth at 355.

Keller had not experienced much success on the challenging Dunes course during his freshman and sophomore seasons, so when he found out from his coach, Rick Mathias, that there would be two late-season events at the Dunes, he was less than thrilled.

"I just remember thinking, 'I can't play that golf course,'" Keller said Monday after his round of 38-39 tied him with Sterling's Michael Hendricks for the low round of the day. "Last year was last year, and this time I played some really good rounds of golf."

In the span of eight days, Keller, his Bulldog teammates and a number of the other 2A schools competing on Monday had played three events at the Dunes. A week prior, at the rescheduled Sublette Invitational, the teams battled brutal wind conditions and temperatures hovering the high 40s to low 50s. On Thursday, at the Hi-Plains League meet, the golfers had warmer weather, but also encountered windy conditions. Monday, it was hotter (mid 90s by the end of the tournament), but the wind was not howling.

"Today, it was just hitting fairways, and I'm more consistent than I was," Keller said. "That first day was just really cold and brutal. The second day (Thursday) we had perfect temperatures but today the wind calmed down, and it was a great day. I had to really focus."

Keller's round included three bogeys and one birdie on the front nine, and he followed that with a four-bogey, one-birdie back nine.

His two birdies came after short wedge shots, which he followed up with putts of 20- and 15-feet on the par-4 sixth and par-4 15th.

"I love hitting my wedges," Keller said. "I have more control of those. It's a little disappointing to lose the playoff, but I'll take all I can get. I've come to love this course. I can't really complain."

Veteran Syracuse coach Rick Mathias had mixed feelings about the day, bemoaning the fact that he had to use two scores in the 90s, a 92 from Chandler Howell and a 93 from either TGierney Dewitt or Ira Kullot, for the team total. Cameron Coleman was the only other Bulldog golfer to break 85, and that was with an 83.

"The main thing was we had a goal to win, and we didn't do that," Mathias said. "I knew how difficult that would be. But now that we've qualified, you can lay your ears back at state and just go play. I have always felt that regionals is the hardest because it's got all the pressure to qualify. I wouldn't say we played respectable, but we played well enough. I think the course for state is a lot easier than the Dunes, so it opens the team competition up to many more teams. We've just got to go perform and let the chips fall where they may."

Stanton County, despite missing the team qualifying, did see two of its players qualify individually. Jeremy Amerin, just coming off knee surgery in the middle of the basketball season, shot an 82 and placed sixth to earn one of the remaining five individual state qualifying spots. His Trojan teammate Gage Martin, shot an 85 to tie for ninth and then lost in a playoff to Ryley Ney of Ellinwood on the first hole, but it was still good enough to advance to the state tourney.

"My back nine was a lot better than the front (44-38)," Amerin said. "I had some rough holes there on the front. I had one or two shots that were a mess."

In his comeback on the incoming nine, Amerin said he just hit the ball more consistently.

"I just hit fairways and greens and made a few putts," Amerin said. "I felt pretty comfortable out there on the back nine."

Amerin agreed with Syracuse's Keller about the change in weather conditions from the week before.

"Monday was just rough, nasty, brutal," he said with a laugh. "Thursday was similar to this and today it got really hot out there. I didn't play my best, but it was good enough."

Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.

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