Column: Lake area golfers show some grit in less than ideal conditions

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Eldon’s Aidan Wells earned a pair of medals last week, winning the Versailles Invitational on April 7 and capturing third in the Boonville Masters Tournament on April 8.

As the first boys high school golf season in two years continues to unfold, spring has decided to make its presence known. 

Playing for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mother nature decided to put Lake area golfers to the test last week at various events. 

Reminiscent of that scene from the 1980 movie ‘Caddyshack’ when the Bishop, played by Henry Wilcoxon, goes out for a round of golf in a storm with Bill Murray’s character, Carl Spackler, some Lake  area golfers found success in tough conditions. Thankfully, none were struck by lightning out on the course like the Bishop.

Versailles hosted 11 schools, including Eldon, for the annual Versailles Invitational on Wednesday and the golfers managed to finish things up in the middle of some rain and windy conditions before a tornado warning came through. In a different kind of format, golfers were awarded points for how well they performed on each hole meaning higher scores were actually a good thing as opposed to the lowest score being the best.   For example, an eagle was worth six points while a triple bogey was worth negative one.

Eldon’s Aidan Wells turned in the best score with a total of 55 amongst the 52 golfers in action and the Mustangs finished second as a team with 162 points in all behind Blair Oaks’ 183. Teagen Hull finished fourth with a score of 47, Alec Lusher placed 14th with a 32, Luke Barchenski tied for 17th with a 28, Joe Prater came in 23rd with 14 points and  Blankenship took 32nd with four points.

“It was a wet and nasty day, but the boys played hard and took home second place. It takes a lot of drive to stay focused in those conditions,” Eldon coach Matt Frey said of the event.

The hosts finished fourth as a team in the event with 103 points and Kyle Bartlett led the way for Versailles with 37 points to take ninth overall. Joel Faron turned in a score of 31 to capture 15th, Josh Denman finished 18th with a 27, Zach Wegener finished 28th with eight points, Joseph Courter was 35th at -1 and Logan Kilmer was 42nd at -7. 

“We had a pretty good showing as a team. A bunch of kids have never played a varsity tournament and we are inexperienced so it is an uphill mountain to climb,” Versailles coach Kyle Nolawski noted. “Looking at the teams we played against, there are a lot of older kids who have been playing competitive golf for a while and against teams in our same time frame, we are beating them and it makes me happy and is good to see.

“We handled ourselves pretty well... it shows we are building a program and that is a big deal for us.” 

Nolawski also highlighted some individual performances, starting at the top of the lineup with Bartlett who medaled in the tournament.

“He is starting to get better contact with the ball and doing the right things. A basketball injury at the end of the year stunted him, but he is getting back in mid-season form,” the coach said. “Joel is starting to see the ball in a different way, Denmon stepped it up and gave us some much needed points and three in the top 20 is something we can hang our hat on.

“One of the things I tell the guys all the time is we look on the bright side and find the positives. It was Logan Kilmer’s first 18-hole varsity tournament and he beat 10 people,” the coach continued.

Overall, it was a tournament Nolawski had circled this season to see where his program stands and despite the conditions  driving scores up, it was an outing that resembled the kind of mentality he wants his golfers to have. 

“Even if it is a down year and we are not playing well, we are doing stuff other teams don’t want to do,” he said. “We go out in poor conditions and don’t care because we want to beat you. I think we do a lot of things other teams may be uncomfortable doing because we don’t see any other option. We learn how to compete and beat guys we probably shouldn’t or are not expected to because they haven’t done those things.” 

Things did not fare much better on Thursday when Camdenton played in the MSU Relays and both Eldon and School of the Osage took on the Boonville Masters Tournament. 

The Lakers managed to turn in some good scores in Springfield as Coach Jason Horne noted that each golfer turned in their best rounds of the year, shooting 41 strokes below their average as a team. Camdenton took 12th amongst 22 teams and were led by Gunnar Schuster who had his best 18 holes of the season so far with a card of 78 to capture eighth individually. 

“The guys are improving each week and their scores are showing it,” Horne noted. 

Up in Boonville, Blair Oaks managed to best the field once again after knocking off fellow Tri-County Conference foe California in a scorecard playoff after both teams turned in a 343.

Eldon managed to capture fourth place as a team  with a 353 and Wells led the way again with a third place individual finish at 78 while Hull came in ninth at 87 and earned a medal as well as one of the top nine finishers.

“Once again, the rain was present but now the boys had to deal with cold temperatures,” Frey noted. “The boys pushed through and took home fourth place in a tournament with some good schools.” 

Osage placed seventh amongst the 12 schools with a team score of 386 and Andrew Bryant earned his spot amongst the medalists with an eighth place finish, scoring an 86. Zach Krantz finished just outside the top nine for the Indians with a round of 88 for the day.

“It was a brutal day for golf. It rained most of the day, although lightly at most times,” Osage coach Travis Squire said. “The course was in great shape, but it was wet and windy. As a result, our team score suffered. The match itself was an endurance and toughness test.” 

Hopefully, mother nature will ease up a bit on these golfers and let them enjoy some better conditions for their first actual season in two years. At the same time, the less than ideal conditions may build up the skill and mentality needed to excel in the postseason.

Time shall shoon determine that. 

Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at mlosch@lakesunonline.com or 573-346-2132