Camdenton, Osage and Eldon boys golfers prepare for the best at state
An entire season’s worth of work has paid off for five Lake area golfers.
Camdenton, Osage and Eldon will be among the schools represented when the state’s best golfers gather for two days and 36 holes to decide a state champion and the 15 golfers that will forever get to carry the honor of All-State.
Camdenton sophomore Gunnar Schuster is taking on a field of 81 golfers in the Class 4 State Tournament at Twin Hills Golf Course in Joplin and Osage seniors Zach Krantz and Andrew Bryant will face a field of 72 golfers at Crown Pointe Golf Course in Farmington for the Class 3 State Tournament along with Eldon senior Aidan Wells and freshman Teagen Hull. It is an opportunity every golfer looks forward to and hopes to be part of and these five golfers will soon find out where they stack up among Missouri’s best on Tuesday.
GUNNAR SCHUSTER, CAMDENTON
Schuster has no intention of wasting time in his high school golf career. After all, he did not even get to enjoy a freshman season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so he is out to make his three remaining years as memorable as they can be.
Reaching his first state tournament as a sophomore is a pretty good start.
“It is awesome. I get to play on the best state of golfers there is in high school and compete against every single player that had a chance to make it,” Schuster said of reaching the season’s top tournament. “One of my goals as a freshman was to go to state all four years and obviously that cannot happen anymore, but we are going to make the best of the three years I have.”
That goal certainly remains intact and the sophomore had little trouble making sure of it in district play at Whispering Oaks Golf Course in Marshfield where he shot a 74 on the par 70 course to tie for second in the field and enter the Class 4 State Tournament as one of the top-ranked golfers in the field.
“It definitely took a good day of golf. Didn’t have great conditions- it was raining all day and the course flooded,” Schuster pointed out.
“Bad day to wear white and got some mud on my pants,” he continued with a smile, “but at the end of the day I just kind of set aside the course conditions and realized that some of the players would be complaining about that and that was my opportunity to take charge and excel on that field.”
Navigating his way through districts, one thing the sophomore said he was happy about was how relaxed he felt. It is just the way the game makes him feel overall, associating it as a stress-reliever, and he is looking to carry that same mentality to state.
“Golf is coming together for me right now. My mental game is strong and I just want to go out there, day by day and know if I make a mistake, that is ok,” he noted. “I’m going to come back from that, no matter what kind of mistake that is.”
Camdenton coach Jason Horne has no doubt of that. After the pandemic disrupted his first season as head coach, he was eager to come out and lead the program and he has been impressed by what he has seen from the sophomore so far.
“This is my first full year as head coach and to see Gunnar come out there and literally almost have a year off, turn around and play a season like he has and have a shot at winning the whole thing, it is exciting to him and me,” said Horne who is in his 16th year of coaching golf overall. “Who knows, maybe we’ll have a state champion at Camdenton this year.”
And, that is not something Horne suggests lightly. After 16 years, he has seen a few Lakers on the links and the coach has no doubt of the sophomore’s potential.
“I’ve never seen a player as consistent and motivated as Gunnar. We’ve had some high caliber players come through the program and he is up there,” he stated. “He is meticulous on the shots, excellent driver and putter and he has some really high goals and aspirations. I want to be there for him to get him where he needs to be.”
Well, that may be due to some experience. Over the years, Schuster has had the privilege of playing in the Lake of the Ozarks Junior Golf Association and Missouri Golf Association growing up and has consistently worked on developing his game.
“I love this game, it is the greatest game there is,” Schuster said. “Plenty of challenges throughout the course, whatever course you are playing, and it is fun playing unique and different courses. To get their challenges, figure out what kind of struggles come with it and you get to combat it. I just love the competitive atmosphere in golf and trying to improve every single day.”
It is a mindset Horne would love any of his golfers to have and while Schuster has been fairly committed to improving his own game, Horne also enjoys how much the sophomore has committed to his teammates as well.
“Gunnar has been a team leader all year. On day one he came out and if you are out here watching the team, one thing I noticed about Gunnar is he always tries to lift up the team and bring them to where he is,” the coach remarked. “They appreciate that, the team has excelled because of Gunnar’s leadership and I expect this team to be full gear next year. Hopefully, we can compete as a team for a championship next year.”
For now, a shot at a state title or at least All-State recognition will have to do. One thing Schuster worked on in preparation for state was his short game and he also pointed to the simulator to make sure every swing lines up right. Overall, he said is looking for this experience to be one of at least three he can enjoy with Horne. If it all comes together, the coach said the rest of the field may need to watch out.
“He is doing extremely well right now and Gunnar has a shot at winning the whole thing this year. He is that good,” the coach stated.
ANDREW BRYANT AND ZACH KRANTZ, OSAGE
Any senior playing their final season of high school golf will surely be motivated to make sure their remaining time on the course lasts as long as possible.
But, that does not account for seniors who did not get to enjoy their junior seasons due to a worldwide pandemic, so Bryant and Krantz are not taking their first and only state tournament appearance for granted.
“To make it to the final show as a senior means a lot because of all the hard work and dedication I’ve put in throughout my years of golf, and to finally get a return on my investment by making it,” said Krantz who watched his older brother Zach finish fifth at state in 2017, the highest finish by an Osage male golfer since 1989. Like his older brother, he spent years playing in the Lake of the Ozarks and Missouri golf associations.
“The thing I enjoy about golf is the mental aspect of the game and how difficult that is. I keeps me on my toes and constantly having to think and I enjoy that very much.”
Bryant has not been on the course throughout his high school career, representing the Indians for the first time this year, but he has made this run a memorable one.
“It means a lot being able to make it to the state tournament and it’s nice to see all the hard work and hours of practice start to pay off,” the senior said. “I’ve enjoyed the relationships I’ve made through this sport and the memories I’ve made with all the guys throughout the year.”
Both golfers know those opportunities to bond can easily be taken away after a year like 2020 and for Osage coach Travis Squire, seeing a full season reach its conclusion is a small victory in itself.
“So many kids have expressed their feelings about losing out on last season and I also think about those kids that didn’t get to play sports during their senior year last spring. With that in mind, we have been very grateful to be out on the links, even through all the bad weather,” the coach said. “Feels like we are getting back to normal.”
Krantz shot a 79 to tie for fourth at districts and Bryant made the cut by shooting an 81 to tie for 11th. For Krantz, one key to navigating his way through the first round of the postseason was to maintain a sense of optimism and not give up, no matter the obstacle. Bryant pointed to the extra hours of practice and the ability to handle failure correctly, also pointing to maintaining a positive mindset.
Their efforts have been rewarded and Squire said any player who makes it to that stage will always be able to look back on their hard work and dedication and be proud of their accomplishments. Of course, the coach is pretty proud of his two state qualifiers, too.
“Zach has played golf for many years and has put in the time learning how to manage his way through a golf course. Zach is not a long ball hitter, but he perfectly demonstrates the old saying, ‘Drive for show, putt for dough,’” Squire noted. He is a consistent player from tee to green and shows his strength as he approaches greens. His short game will continuously frustrate any player that outdrives him on the tees.
“Andrew has only been playing for a year now and this blows me away as he continues to improve with every round,” the coach continued. “Andrew can hit the long ball and plays golf with determination. I have never had a player work as hard through the season as Andrew has to improve his game.”
There was just one week of work left before the pair of seniors represent Osage in official competition for the final time. Bryant said he stuck to the same method all season of working on the range and his short game and Krantz said he been on a course every day since districts to identify and improve any weak parts of his game. The time has come to put on the maroon and white one more time.
“It is an absolute honor to represent Osage at state because it has been so supportive for me as a golfer and I am looking forward to doing the Osage community as a whole proud,” Krantz said.
“It means everything to me to be able to represent or great school at the biggest tournament of the year,” added Bryant.
However it plays out, Squire is looking forward to working with this duo one more time as well and there are a few things he wants them to keep in mind.
“I want the kids to remember to set goals they can control. ‘I want to win state,’ is a goal that forgot to consider the other 89 players on the course,” the coach noted. “I want the kids to play each hole smart and as bold as can be considered smart. I want them to remember that this is a 36-hole tournament that involves hills and valleys for every player and I want them to rebound from mistakes and continue to play the next hole.
“I have seen both of these players show these kinds of strengths throughout the season and as seniors, I know they will have a blast as this will be the most challenging and memorable golf experience of their high school careers.”
AIDAN WELLS AND TEAGEN HULL, ELDON
The last time Wells saw a state tournament in 2019, he and his teammates were putting in the work to finish fourth as a team and bring home a trophy. The sophomore finished 21st in the field of 91 golfers that day and little did he know that it would be his final outing as a high school golfer for two years.
Well, he is back for one last ride as a senior and his freshman teammate Hull is hoping to make a habit of coming back each season.
“It was disappointing after last year, practicing and not being able to go. It feels good this year to actually play at state after working hard this whole year,” said Wells who is also looking forward to a few more years of golf at Rockhurst University in Kansas City. “You just cannot take anything for granted right now. You just have to take it one step at a time and play it as it is.”
The senior certainly learned to not take anything for granted after what happened during his junior year, but the expectations remained high to get back to state and Hull wanted to hold himself to the same standard.
“I really set my standards high this year for me and my expectations and finally met my goal. That really felt good,” the freshman noted.
“It is just my strive to get better. I just want to be one of the best players here.”
Wells shot a 79 to tie for fourth at districts and punch a ticket to state and Hull was not far behind him with a scorecard of 80 to tie for eighth amongst the pack. For Eldon coach Matt Frey, it was just another sign of hard work paying off and how the veteran senior and young freshman have pushed each other all season.
“They compete to be the best in competitions in practice and if they struggle with something, they are usually at the course after a match or tournament wanting to fix it,” the coach said of both golfers who spent time in the Lake of the Ozarks and Missouri golf associations. “They both have taken everything I have told them in stride and will come out and put in any extra work I ask of them. They know if I’m hard on them it’s because I care and expect the most out of them.
“Hopefully, the younger guys have seen that hard work pays off and that golf isn’t just a three-month sport,” the coach continued. “The guys put in work all year to get where they are.”
When it came time to step back on the links this spring, Wells said it was important to stay consistent at practice by focusing on every shot and not simply going through the motions. For districts, he pointed to strong mental discipline and trusting the process and it will be more of the same at state as it has now allowed him to represent Eldon one last time amongst Missouri’s best.
“It is a great feeling just going out and being able to show what our school has done, all the work and everything the coaches put in,” Wells stated. “I’m just going to go out, have fun and enjoy my last state tournament.”
Hull also recalled all the work he did in practice and a strong mindset to not allow himself to fall into old habits. When it came time to put it all to the test at districts, he said it was key to focus on himself and not worry about anyone else. A state tournament is a little different from his years of experience before joining the high school ranks, but he will continue to trust himself as it has not led him astray so far.
“I’m just going to try to stay locked in, play my own game and keep focused,” he said of his approach to state.
Frey has enjoyed the privilege of coaching golfers at state over the years in his time leading the Eldon program and the excitement that comes with it never changes for him as it is a goal the program sets out to accomplish every season. He wants the senior to soak it all in and the freshman to learn from his first trip.
“For Aidan, I just want him to take it all in and enjoy what he has accomplished. Aidan is a great kid to coach and I wish him nothing but the best in the future,” Frey said. “He has been great to the youth in our program and has so many kids look up to him, from our youth program to kids on the team.
“I want Teagen to enjoy his time at state and he is only going to get better and hopefully, take a leadership role next year,” the coach continued. “Hopefully, the guys can lean on him from his experiences.”
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-346-2132