Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories highlighting the top 10 local sports stories of 2018.
After winning the 2017 Class 3-2-1A state championship, the Syracuse girls golf team was looking to repeat in 2018. After finishing as runner-up in 2017, Stanton County’s Rylie Cook was looking to take the final step in her quest for a state title in 2018.
Both were successful in October at Emporia Golf Course, making the duo of titles The Telegram’s No. 9 sports story of 2018.
The Bulldogs dominated tournament play all regular season — winning five of their six tournaments — and after qualifying to state with a win in the Colby regional earlier that month, Syracuse was ready to try and repeat as champion. It was a cold, chilly start to the day that October, as the 3-2-1A tournament was the only one played that day. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they persevered through the less than ideal weather to clinch their second title in a row.
The Bulldogs posted a score of 362, which was a full 14 strokes ahead of the second place Goodland Cowboys.
Cook, meanwhile, went undefeated all season, posting a 76 in the state tournament to edge Goodland’s Kerrigan Rudolph by three strokes.
For the Syracuse Bulldogs girls golf team, team championships come in pairs. They won their first two titles in school history in 2011 and 2012, won their third in 2011 and repeated as 3-2-1A champions, for their fourth in school history in 2018 and fourth in eight years.
Cook posted an 81 in 2017 at Smoky Hill Country Club in Hays, seven shots better than the third-place finisher. But Hsiang Chin took the individual title with a 76 for Hays-Thomas More Prep-Marian.
That duo had tied for fifth in 2016, when Cook was a freshman, at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
KEY STATS AND FIGURES
Although the Bulldogs did not have the top finisher in the tournament, they did manage to have four golfers finish inside the top 20, contributing to their 14-stroke win. Finishing first for the Bulldogs, and fifth overall, was senior Paige Barnes, who posted an 84. The only other senior on the team, Riley Baker finished two places behind Barnes with a score of 87.
Carly Kullot posted a 92 and tied for 11th, and Andie Coleman shot a 99 and tied for 19th. Hannah Lampe also shot a 118 as the fifth, non-counting score.
Syracuse, Trojans’ Rylie Cook reach season-long goals
Editor’s note: The following story, written by Telegram sports reporter J. Levi Burnfin, first appeared in The Telegram’s Oct. 17 edition and is re-published below.
The 2017 Class 3-2-1A state championship set both Syracuse High School girls’ golf team and Stanton County’s Rylie Cook onto the same path for 2018 — win a state championship.
But why that goal was set was vastly different.
For the former, the Bulldogs were looking to repeat as state champions, after winning the 2017 tournament at Smoky Hill Country Club in Hays. For the latter, Cook was hoping to rectify a second-place finish in 2017, after beginning the back nine with the lead.
Both did so on Monday at Emporia Municipal Golf Course, where Syracuse posted a team score of 362 to edge Goodland’s 376, and Cook recorded a 5-over 76 to beat Goodland golfer Kerrigan Rudolph by three strokes.
“We played pretty well, under the conditions,” Syracuse head coach Rick Mathias said of the wind-chilled course that hovered right around freezing for most of the day. “I really felt like I had the toughest team, mentally, going into those types of conditions, and that proved to be true.”
Cook had to overcome a mental hurdle of her own, when she nearly repeated her 2017 performance that left her in second place.
She had led in 2017 after nine holes, before she “just kind of fell apart.”
Cook nearly did the same on Monday, bogeying three-consecutive holes on her turn — the tournament was a shotgun start.
“It was like a flashback,” Cook said. “I was like, ‘Nope, we’re not doing that again. I’ve got to get my head back into it again.’”
She did, hitting her drive to just off the fairway, then sent her second shot just left of the green, before chipping onto the green and two-putting for par.
“I kind of re-gathered myself,” Cook said.
It was mostly smooth sailing from there.
“It’s unreal almost,” Cook said Monday of clinching the individual title. “All the adrenaline is pumping through your body. It’s crazy, I guess.
“This has been my goal since freshman year, since I was a little kid, and I didn’t even know about state championships. This has been a big goal.”
It had been a big goal for Syracuse all season, as well, after winning a season ago.
“That’s been our goal all season, to repeat, and we knew we had good enough players to do that,” Mathias said, “but to get through the conditions and the circumstances, it was great.”
The Class 3-2-1A tournament was the only one to be played on Monday, as every other class moved back to Tuesday due to weather.
But the small class just moved back the start to noon and went to a shotgun start.
“It was a totally different feel than any of the other state tournaments I’ve been in,” Mathis said.
But it worked out — the sun came out, and the Bulldogs — the only Class 2A school competing — shone, placing four in the top 20. Senior Paige Barnes led the way with an 84 to finish fifth, and fellow senior Riley Baker finished eighth with an 87.
“It was just great stuff,” Mathias said of his two seniors. “We’re going to miss them next year.”
Carly Kullot took 11th with a 92, and Andie Coleman rounded out the counting scores with a 99 to finish in a tie for 19th. Hannah Lampe shot a 118 as the fifth golfer for Syracuse, which finished the season with eight first-place finishes and one second-place finish — at the Lakin Invitational. And they finished second there to Goodland, the team that finished second Monday.