By BRETT MARSHALL
Ulysses senior Brady Buxman has played enough golf in southwest Kansas to know that the wind usually will blow during a tournament.
But when he got out of his school van early Saturday morning at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, the Tigers' top player had to admit he wasn't fond of what Mother Nature was throwing at him and the rest of the 13-team Garden City Invitational field.
"I just said, 'wow, what's with the weather?," Buxman said hours later, after savoring a solid round of 3-over-par 75 on the difficult windswept, bone-chilling Dunes layout. "I thought, "Why do we have to play? It was very cold off the first tee, and I had a bunch of layers on so I tried to stay as warm as possible."
Buxman and the field teed off at 9 a.m., when the temperature was a brisk 43 degrees, with the wind blowing at 25 mph and gusting to 35 mph.
Buxman's 75 was three shots ahead of Dodge City's Jace Larson, whose 78 made him just the second player to break 80 for the tournament.
Dodge City, however, had little trouble in claiming the team title, posting an impressive 324, with Larson's 78 leading the way. Ulysses, with Buxman's score pacing the day's effort, finished in second, well back at 349. Host Garden City, meanwhile, struggled to place third with a 353, two shots in front of Hutchinson's 355.
For the host Buffaloes, it was not the recipe that coach Lloyd Tiffany was hoping for in the team's season-opening event.
Not a single Buff golfer placed in the top 10, with newcomer Austin Swender's 86 earning him the highest finish (tied for 11th) for a Garden City golfer.
"It was just tough conditions for everyone," Tiffany said. "The real indicator for us is that we were able to beat Hutchinson and Maize, and those are the teams we have to beat at regionals if we want to get back here for state (Buffalo Dunes will host the Class 6A state tournament on May 21)."
The Buffs' scoring was bunched, with the four counting scores being separated by only six shots. Scott Bulkley was one shot behind Swender with an 87, Bryer Livermore another shot behind with an 88 and Nick Mann and Boone Wells posted rounds of 92. Braden Taylor rounded out the varsity scores with a 94.
"We had some tough breaks (early), but I thought the kids played it to the end and stayed with it," Tiffany said. "I thought we shot reasonable for the conditions we faced. Our scores reflect the story we've had the last two seasons. It's very competitive from top to bottom of the team."
For Buxman, the day then became all about staying calm and not letting the weather dictate the round.
"I just didn't want to let it (round) get away," Buxman said. "It was just about hitting fairways and greens. I was able to get a little warmer, a little loose on the range, and then I didn't feel too bad once I got out on the course."
His round was steady. He had just one birdie, five bogeys and 12 pars on his scorecard.
"I'm definitely happy with the way the round went," Buxman said. "I had a rough day on Thursday (second with a 78, on a calm day) so today was more of what I expect from myself."
The fact that Buxman and his Tigers were the lone Class 4A team entered in the 13-team event was not lost on him, either.
"Having played at state last year and seeing a lot of good players there, I felt like we could compete and we were able to do that," Buxman said. "This gives me a lot of confidence for the season."
Garden City resumes action on Friday when the Buffs travel to Guymon, Okla.