By BRETT MARSHALL
There's no mystery for golfers as to how to master the Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
Hit the ball in the fairway and stay away from the "gunch," an appropriate name for the tall native grasses that surround many of the lush, closely-mown areas at one of Kansas' best municipal golf courses in Garden City.
The Dunes will host the Class 2A boys state golf tournament on Monday in a one-day, 18-hole event, in which southeast Kansas' Pittsburg-St. Marys Colgan will be the odds-on favorite to repeat its 2010 championship. The first tee times are set for 9 a.m. off both Nos. 1 and 10 tees.
In other state tournaments, Garden City's Boone Wells and Bryer Livermore will compete individually at the Class 6A state tourney in Wichita at Reflection Ridge Golf Club. Ulysses' team earned a repeat trip to the Class 4A tournament which will be played a nationally-recognized Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson. Alex Jones and Christian Blackburn of Lakin will play in the Class 3A meet at Salina Municipal Golf Course while South Gray and Greeley County's teams will be participating in the Class 1A state tourney at Emporia Municipal Golf Course.
But Marty Cook, the 12-year veteran coach at Stanton County, is all too familiar with the Dunes and all the challenges that it presents.
"Nobody likes to see a 30 mph wind, but if it's 15-20 mph, then I think the teams from out here like ours and Meade, will certainly be more used to those conditions," Cook said.
His Trojans, with four returners from a state-qualifying team of a year ago, hopes the experience his team has gained by two earlier season tournaments at the Dunes will prove to be advantageous to his players.
"We certainly know what and what not to do when playing there," Cook said.
The state team of a year ago finished 12th of 12 teams, but Cook is expecting more from this year's group for a number of reasons.
First, the experience factor gained from 2010. Second, he's got two freshmen who have contributed with no seniors on the team.
This group continues to improve, mature and Cook says only better days are ahead for a program that has never finished higher than sixth at the state meet.
Ryan Martin, the current head golf professional at The Golf Club at Southwind, won the Class 2A state individual title in 2001 when the tourney was played at Southwind.
"There's a certain comfort level in knowing that we get to sleep in our own beds the night before and then travel up the morning of the tournament," Cook said. "There's no surprises with the course for us. I'm fully confident that if we get good weather and play like we're capable, we'll have at least one player in the 70s, a few more in the 80s and that should be competitive."
Junior Broc Ellis has been the team's most consistent performer while two other juniors — Seth Holliday and Scott Campbell — have had their ups and downs during the season.
But they gained valuable experience from the state meet of a year ago, as did sophomore Brad Ellis.
Just more than a week ago when the Hi-Plains League tournament was played at the Dunes, the wind howled at about 35 mph and scores soared. The Trojans had a four-man team total of 363, one of their highest of the season.
The two freshmen — Gage Martin and Adrian Gum — round out the Trojans six-man squad.
"Most of the players who will be here haven't seen a course like Buffalo Dunes, so we're hopeful that it works to our favor," Cook said.
Other area schools that will have individuals competing in the tournament include Syracuse with Jace Coleman and Tierney Cashler; Sublette with Kyle Stokes; Cimarron with Mitch Chalkley and Stewart Fairbank and Garrett Estes of Wichita County.
See pairings, tee times in Scoreboard, Page D2.