The time has come.
Lake area golfers representing School of the Osage, Versailles and Eldon are preparing to take on the best golfers the state of Missouri has to offer. One of them has been to the state tournament before while two others will take their swings in the final tournament of the season for the first time. The action gets underway on Monday and time will soon tell what each are capable of once the two-day tournament has concluded.
School of the Osage junior Jacob Krantz knows what he is getting himself into.
Krantz qualified for the state tournament a season ago as a sophomore and battled unpleasant weather conditions where the second day of the tournament was cancelled. As a result, Krantz finished tied for 34th in the Class 3 field of 90 golfers and was just six strokes away from earning All-State honors. Now he is back after making it through the sectional round at Meadow Lake Golf Course In Jefferson City, but the road to get back to the Class 3 state tournament was by no means an easy one.
“I was really determined to just kind of validate all that I have done this season, but it was hard and Meadow Lake played really tough,” he said. “It was in really good condition, but a tough course. We scraped through that and did not have the best round, but it was enough to get it done.”
Osage coach L.J. Weeks knows just how tough that road can be, but he is fully confident in the junior’s abilities and is proud of Krantz for getting back to this point.
“He has really developed a complete game. He’s got all the shots so I believe he has the game to contend at state if, like all the players, he can control the mental aspects of it,” the coach said. “A few times this year people have said it should be a piece of cake for Jacob to make it back to state because he was there last year. What people don’t realize is how difficult that is.
“The emotional and mental pressure of competing in these tournaments knowing you have to play well or you’re done takes an enormous sense of being and belief in yourself so to watch him do this has been wonderful,” the coach added.
Part of calming those nerves comes from the development of Krantz’s game. Instead of looking for that one magical shot, he takes things in stride and calmly puts together strong results.
“I’m not as nervous on the first tee as often. It is state so I get jitters and everything, but I guess I am a little more mature with my play,” Krants remarked. “I don’t quite go for the crazy shot every time. I kind of take my licks, play it and that has helped out a lot.”
Now as a returning state qualifier, he has a little better of idea of what to expect this time around. Krantz said his strategy was to stay in the fairways and try to stay clean while hitting the greens and making putts. Time will soon tell if he can do just that.
“You just kind of got to play with what it gives you because you cannot really change anything,” Krantz said of playing the course of a state tournament. “If the rough is real thick or the green is real fast, you cannot do anything about it so you just kind of gotta roll with the punches and try to score as much as you can… Just keep it simple and don’t get too crazy with it.”
It also helps when you get a chance to scout out the course and take notes and that is exactly what Weeks and the junior have done playing a practice round at Sedalia Country Club where the tournament will take place on Monday and Tuesday. Weeks provides notebooks for all his players before big tournaments so they are not thrown off guard on any particular hole, should they get a chance to scout it before the tournament begins.
“You are not really worried about your score in the practice round. You are more worried about where do you hit the ball, where do you miss or where the trouble is,” Weeks noted. “You are taking down a lot of notes that you can have with you as you are playing it. Do this, don’t do that, hit it to this yardage, all those kinds of things.”
One thing the coach will be looking for is for Krantz to stay aggressive. With no more cuts to be made, Weeks said that should ease some of the pressure.
“Go do everything you can to win and be a medalist,” Weeks said. “Go and be aggressive. Jacob plays much better when he is aggressive so my hope as I walk with him and coach him during the round is to keep pushing him to be aggressive and not hold back because he is at his best when he does that.”
Regardless of how Krantz finishes, Weeks said he is glad to once again have the opportunity to be his coach through the tournament and is looking forward to what lies ahead.
“This has been a fabulous experience,” he stated. “You have your whole golf season where you have a big group of guys and slowly over time at districts and sectionals that number whittles down. Once again at the end of the season it is Jacob and I and I could not ask for a better young man to be with. Right now we are spending a lot of time together so this is fun and I am really enjoying it.”
The tournament should also serve as a big motivating factor going forward.
“I think this gives him so much more confidence knowing that it validates himself. Not that anybody was questioning it, but to himself it validates it,” Weeks noted. “The confidence, the belief in yourself that you can do his and it was not a fluke because you are meant to do this. I think going forward into next year, that will really push him to reach the next level.”
Versailles sophomore Ori Bartlett loves the game of golf.
He was first introduced to it at the age of four by his grandfather, has been a frequent sight on his home course at Rolling Hills Golf Club and now he is a state qualifier after making the cut in a Class 2 sectional at Whispering Oaks Golf Club in Strafford.
“I’m really committed to the game, I know that,” Bartlett said. “After a break I came back to it (golf) at age 12 and I realized I liked it so I wanted to go far. My freshman year I missed the cut at districts by two strokes so it motivated me because I saw I could shoot well. I just needed to practice a lot.”
Bartlett did just that playing in the Lake of the Ozarks Junior Golf Association (LOJGA) over the summer where he qualified for the championship tournament and placed eighth overall.
“I wanted to see what I could do during the school year and before golf started this year, I said I really wanted to go to state and planned for it so to get that is pretty nice.”
Versailles coach Kent Thomas said Bartlett is certainly deserving of the honor after all the work he has put in. After the Tigers lost 2016 graduate Travis Reger who played in multiple state tournaments for Versailles, it was not quite clear who would be the next golfer to step up and carry on the torch but the program certainly has its answer.
“We did not know exactly what to expect this year after losing Travis,” Thomas recalled. I think the expectation he (Bartlett) set for himself this year was to make it to state. He knew he had the capability, but things have to go right and he had to put in the hard work. That is the only part any kid controls and he has certainly put the time in.”
Bartlett is certainly excited to carry on that banner for Versailles and he also took some time to thank all those who have offered their support.
“It feels great to be honest,” Bartlett said of representing Veresailles. “They have an (electronic) board in front of the school and they put my name on it so that stoked me. The school has supported me a lot so it feels great and I am glad to carry on that tradition of someone going to state every year.”
The opportunity did not happen by chance though and Thomas has certainly noticed a difference in Bartlett’s game between freshman and sophomore year.
“He gradually got more consistent,” Thomas pointed out. “At sectionals, he put two nine-hole rounds together that were pretty solid. He had two scores of 42 and a bad shot here or there, but he stayed consistent.”
Bartlett and Thomas planned to visit Fremont Hills Country Club in Fremont where the two-day tournament will take place on Monday and Tuesday and get a practice round in.
“We’ll make notes and honestly the pressure is off at this point,” Thomas said. “We’ll go down there and see what happens and see if he can put together a couple of good rounds. It will be a good building block for him the next couple of years to see where stacks up.”
Being his first tournament, Bartlett said his expectation is to shoot a personal best and see where the chips fall.
“I’m not going out there to exactly win it, but just see how I can do at that level. It is a new course and I do not know all the details of it,” he said. “It would be awesome to medal. I’m just trying to shoot my best and if it happens it will. Next year my expectations will be higher, but I’m going out there to shoot the best I can. If I don’t, it is ok because I have two more years to practice.”
No matter the results, Thomas is excited to see how this tournament will help the young sophomore develop and the impact it can have on the rest of the program.
“It is a huge confidence-builder for him, but it shows other kids what we do,” the coach said. “It always helps when other kids see Ori make it there and it makes them think, ‘If I work hard and put the time in, I can do the same thing.’”
Eldon has returned to the state tournament.
After a brief absence, the Mustangs are back and senior Spencer Rogers punched his ticket to the take on the best of Missouri for the first time after battling his way through a Class 3 sectional at Meadow Lake. After narrowly missing the cut for state by five strokes as a sophomore and two strokes as a junior, is safe to say Rogers is feeling pretty good about the accomplishment.
“I did not think I was going to make it because I did not play very well and had a lot of three and four-putts so I am happy that I’ve made it,” Rogers stated. “I believe the last person to make it to state was in 2011 so it does feel really good to get Eldon back to state.”
Another individual who is happy to see Eldon back at state and see Rogers enjoy this accomplishment is Coach Matt Frey who grew up in a neighboring town and always viewed Eldon as a dominant golf school.
“Coach (Chuck) Campbell did great things with the program during his long run as a coach,” said Frey who is in his first season at the helm. “I’m just glad I can continue to move the program on in the same direction. Spence has worked so hard on his game since his freshman year and it’s fantastic to see the hard work pay off.”
Rogers said it has definitely been a confidence-builder as he made the cut by two strokes this season and was encouraged by the outcome of his practice round at Sedalia Country Club where the two-day Class 3 tournament will take place on Monday and Tuesday.
“I’m not preparing any differently than what I have for districts, sectionals or all year,” the senior said. “I’m happy that I made it to state and to place in the top 10 would be amazing, but the top 25 is kind of my goal.”
That confidence grew from a relentless work ethic and Frey said the senior is certainly deserving of the position he is in now.
“Spencer made it to state by putting in the work. You get you what you put into this sport and it’s showing true with Spencer,” Frey noted. “Spencer was not scared scared to practice when he was not required to and he put in many hours of early morning practice before school.”
Another aspect that favors the senior is that he is pretty familiar with the course in Sedalia having played two tournaments there this year and now it is just about fine-tuning the little things.
“Spencer is familiar with the course and has played some good golf there in the past. We have been focusing on the little things this past week that Spencer wanted to sharpen with his game and have been taking it in knowing that it’s almost over,” Frey said.
The biggest thing Rogers wants to clean up is his putting game and if he can do that things may go fairly well for the senior.
“In my mind it is going to be putting for me because putting is something I have struggled with all year,” he noted. “Drivers have been working out pretty good, irons have been good and wedges have been a little difficult, but I’d say to win it you are going to definitely have to shoot under (par).”
Frey’s message for the senior is to simply enjoy himself and make the most of his final tournament as a Mustang because he undoubtedly deserves to be there.
“I wanted Spencer to know that he does not need to go out and do anything spectacular to make a good showing at the state tournament. He is a great player and even better kid,” the coach stated. “I have developed a long lasting relationship with him as I feel I did with my other two seniors. It will be sad to see them leave, but I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.
“Seeing the hard work pay off should be a great reward for him and I tell all my golfers that you have learned to play a lifelong sport so I hope they enjoy it for as long as they want,” the coach added.