Camdenton, Osage and Eldon boys golfers reach state tournament
The postseason has arrived.
All the tees, all the putts and all the time in general spent on the links perfecting the craft boiled down to 18 holes of golf on Monday in various district tournaments around the state of Missouri.
The objective was quite clear for golfers representing Camdenton, Osage, Eldon and Versailles- play well enough and the prize is a trip to state. The only question was what it would take and five golfers from the Lake area showed they had the right stuff.
Camdenton traveled to Whispering Oaks Golf Course in Marshfield for the Class 4 District 3 Tournament on the par 70 course and one Laker not only qualified for state, he nearly won it all.
Gunnar Schuster shot a 74 to tie for second and he finished just two strokes shy of district champion Adam Floyd of Glendale.
“He came out on fire and finished strong,” Camdenton coach Jason Horne said. “Gunnar is peaking just at the right time of the season and has a great shot at state of finishing in the top five or even winning the entire thing.”
The Lakers finished sixth overall as a team among the 11 schools in action with a scorecard of 365 and Ozark Conference foe Glendale captured the team title as well with a 310 ahead of Rolla (316), Lebanon (330), Branson (348) and Willard (355).
A field of 68 golfers were on the links overall at Marshfield on Monday and a scorecard of 83 proved to be cutoff score that separated the 19 state qualifiers from the rest of the pack. Camdenton’s Dallas Downey turned in a 90 to tie for 30th, Cale Bentley shot a 96 to tie for 39th, Rylee Hodges put up a 105 to tie for 56th and Luke Sweatt finished right by his teammate with a 106 to place 58th.
“Extremely proud of our players,” Horne said. “ Cale and Dallas had their best tournament of the season.”
The goal is to obviously qualify as many as possible, but it is an encouraging result for Horne after the program recently finished fourth in the conference tournament.
“We have seen tremendous growth from the varsity team,” the coach noted as his program finally got to enjoy a full season for the first time in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the 2020 campaign. “The entire varsity team will be returning next year and we will have high hopes for a possible run at a team championship in our near future.”
Schuster will tee off for the Lakers in the Class 4 State Tournament on Monday and Tuesday at Twin Hills Golf Course in Joplin.
OSAGE AND ELDON
The conditions were not exactly ideal in Springfield as Osage and Eldon golfers stepped on the links for the Class 3 District 3 Tournament at Payne Stewart Golf Course.
“It was a cold, wet, rainy and windy day so it must have been time to golf in this 2021 boys golf season,” Osage coach Travis Squire noted sarcastically.
A pair of his golfers and a duo representing the Mustangs managed to make the cut, shooting an 85 or better amongst the top 18, and reach the final show of the year. Andrew Bryant and Zach Krantz will be representing Osage and Aidan Wells and Teagen Hull will have the privilege of representing Eldon.
The Mustangs put together a team score of 347 to finish fourth among the 14 schools at the tournament and Osage placed fifth with a 352. Tri-County Conference foe Blair Oaks captured the team title with a 328 ahead of Logan-Rogersville (333) and Springfield Catholic (337).
“The team played well, we shot our best team score of the year,” Eldon coach Matt Frey said of the fourth place finish. “I was proud of all the boys and saw so much good stuff yesterday.”
Wells shot a 79 on the par 70 course to tie for fourth amongst the 73 golfers in the field, just six strokes shy of district champion Owen Swearingen of Nevada. Hull finished his day with a round of 80 to tie for eighth amongst the pack.
“As for Aidan and Teagen, I couldn’t be more proud. Aidan being a senior, it means a lot for him to get back to state,” Frey said of Wells who saw his junior season cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “He had a rough front nine (holes), but came back in the second nine and played great. Teagan had a good front nine and kept it together on the back. As a freshman, there is a lot of pressure they haven’t experienced yet and I am proud of Teagen for holding it together.”
Luke Barchenski tied for 30th with a score of 93 for Eldon, Alex Lusher finished tied for 35th with a 95 and Logan Blankenship took 65th with a 115. Their seasons may be over, but Frey said there is plenty left for them to accomplish.
“I look forward to seeing what Alex, Logan and Luke will accomplish next year with the way they finished the season. As we prepare for state, I know the boys will be pushing each other,” the coach noted.
Eldon was effectively coming off a fourth place team finish at state in 2019 and knowing it was a significant feat to live up to, Frey said this season was about patience and growth to get back to that level. He has been pleased by what he has seen.
“I always tell the players you get out of this game what you put in and they have taken that to heart this year and put in more work than I asked for,” the coach remarked. “They stay late, play together on weekends and really push and compete with each other.”
Krantz also tied for fourth to lead Osage with a 79 and Bryant qualified for state by tying for 11th with a round of 81. Paven Clark shot a 90 to tie for 26th, Clayton Elliott placed 51st with a 102 and Caden Neubauer tied for 58th with a 108.
“All five Osage golfers played hard and performed very well under the conditions,” Squire noted. “They played great rounds in terrible weather and on even worse course conditions.”
The duos from Eldon and Osage now turn their attention to Crown Pointe Golf Course in Farmington where the Class 3 State Tournament will be played on Monday and Tuesday. As for Krantz and Bryant, Squire is glad the pair of seniors who missed out on their junior campaigns will have one final shot at state.
“Both Zach and Andrew have played very well throughout the regular season and postseason and they deserve this opportunity,” he said. “Both boys bring different strengths to the game they will draw on in their battle at state. Zach has such a strong short game and Andrew can really hit the long ball.
“Crown Pointe will test them both as the course is very long and the greens are large and challenging,” the coach continued. “We are going to use this week to polish up the game and prepare for the big show. I am very proud of the team and these two boys in particular.”
The hopes Versailles golfers had for reaching state were pinned on the links at Shirkey Golf Course in Richmond where the Tigers faced 13 other schools, representing a field of 69 golfers in all in the Class 2 District 4 Tournament.
The Tigers finished 11th amongst those schools with a team score of 437 while Tri-County Conference foe California won the title with a 367 and the year came to an end as none of the five Versailles golfers on the links made the cut for state. But, Versailles coach Kyle Nolawski pointed out that it was far from the end.
“While they were obviously disappointed, we discussed how golf is unique in that you are able to play after high school,” the coach said. “Sure, it may not be the same but these are lifelong memories, lessons, friendships and skills that transfer into everything we do in life. For those who weren’t seniors, the work begins again.”
The top 18 reached state in 2021 and the cutoff score added up to a 95. Kyle Bartlett put up the best finish for Versailles as he led the Tigers with a round of 104 to tie for 30th. Josh Denman shot a 106 to place 34th, Joel Faron’s day ended with a 112 to tie for 42nd, Zach Wegener tied for 43rd with a 115 and Joseph Courter earned a 58th place finish with a 127.
The finale of 2021 may not have been what Versailles was hoping for, but it was an opportunity to play again after what the COVID-19 pandemic took away a year ago and enjoy all the perks of stepping onto the links every day with teammates.
“It felt really good to come back. We not only lost the ability to compete that year, but valuable and lasting memories that could have been made,” Nolawski said. “I think there is definitely a sense of appreciation for this season. It was also a reminder of how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. I think it shined a light on what was truly important, and the end goal in what we are trying to achieve not only in our program, but also high school sports in general.”
And if 2021 ultimately proves to be a stepping stone to those future goals and aspirations, Nolawski said his program is on the right path.
“We grew tremendously as a team and we feel like a family more than a lot of teams I have been a part of,” he stated. “I think that is something to be really proud of- to be a part of something that special and much greater than yourself.”
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com or 573-346-2132