Pair of Laker golfers earn recognition, Camdenton finishes fourth in conference tournament

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
The Camdenton boys golf team finished fourth in the Ozark Conference Tournament on May 3 at Lake Valley Golf Club in Camdenton. FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Coach Jason Horne, Luke Sweat, Gunnar Schuster, Cale Bentley, Dallas Downey and Rylee Hodges.

Camdenton sophomore Gunnar Schuster is out to make up for lost time. 

Denied the opportunity to play his first season of high school golf as a freshman in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was able to earn All-Conference recognition for the first time in his career on Monday along with teammate Rylee Hodges as the Lakers finished fourth as a team in the Ozark Conference Tournament at Lake Valley Golf Club. 

“It feels good, I just keep trying to shoot as low a score as possible. The competition was definitely good and kind of fell apart on the back nine, but hopefully districts goes a little bit better,” Schuster said.

“I just want to make sure I make the most of every situation, whether it is a state championship or a regular tournament during the high school season. Knowing I only have three years in my high school career, it has shortened time, so, I just want to do the best I can in the time I have.”

Both Schuster and Hodges finished in the top 15 to make the All-Conference team as Schuster finished third overall with a 77 and Hodges grabbed the final spot with an 89 on his scorecard after 18 holes on the familiar course at Camdenton. 

“Rylee shoots his best round and Gunnar, what can you say- a fantastic golfer and high hopes for both of them and the whole team when we get to districts,” said Camdenton coach Jason Horne who finally gets to lead the Lakers in actual golf competition after taking the reigns as head coach in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Those hopes may be high because the Lakers finished the day a little better than previously projected, according to Horne. Camdenton’s team score of 352 was good enough for fourth, trailing only conference champion Rolla’s 326, Glendale’s 332 and Kickapoo’s 333, when Horne said the team may have originally been slated for seventh or eighth. The coach said Monday’s scorecard was also 20 strokes better than the previous team score. 

“Extremely proud of the boys. We started off the year not quite sure where we were going to go and only had one golfer who has ever played competitive golf- 11 of them are basically new golfers,” Horne remarked. “We started off the season kind of rough in the upper 400s (team score) and have shaved off 50 strokes this season. The guys are shooting well and the boys and myself are so thankful we are playing golf this year. 

“They played their best golf at the end of the season like they are supposed to.” 

The one Laker who came into the season with previous competitive experience was Schuster who grew up playing in organizations like the Lake of the Ozarks Junior Golf Association and Missouri Golf Association. The sophomore said it has helped to make that transition to the high school ranks a little easier. 

“Golf is tough and one of the hardest sports there is. Very much a mental game, so, just getting prepared in my younger days really helped out,” he noted. “Being competitive and making sure I’m able to compete at the level I know I can.” 

The sophomore said there a few differences in high school, such as bigger fields and a range in the scores, but there are still some good golfers to compete against and he is expecting that to be the case on Monday when the Lakers tee off their postseason in the Class 4 District 3 Tournament at Whispering Oaks Golf Course in Marshfield. 

“It is kind of cutthroat from now on. You either make it or don’t, so, you just have to get out there and grind,” he said of the upcoming district tournament. “It is tough, for sure, and there is great competition.” 

Schuster said a key for him is to simply focus on his own game and not worry so much about the scores other golfers are turning in. Horne will likely find that to be a good strategy as the team makes final preparations the rest of this week for the tournament ahead. 

“This past week we talked about our mental game and just course management. That is what we need to do,” the coach stated. “We need to focus on keeping the ball in play, keeping it on the fairway and no more than two putts is what we ask for. They took it seriously this week and the whole season has been a learning experience. They have just impressed Coach (Shawn) Maschino and myself this year. 

“Where they started and where they are today- great and fantastic team.” 

And however things play out next week, the experience has been an enjoyable one for Horne who is in his 16th year overall of coaching golf, including the season the COVID-19 pandemic took away. 

“I'll tell you what, this is probably one of the most tight-knit bunch of boys I’ve had in 16 years. Fantastic team,” he said. 

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