Lions earn their mulligan
Willcott’s score wins tiebreaker, sends Lansing back to state
Olathe Ryan Willcott never imagined his final round of high school golf would be so miserable.
Fortunately for the Lansing High senior, he's getting a second chance.
Willcott shot a 101 on Monday at the Class 5A regional tournament at Heritage Park Golf Course. But on a day where golfers on five of the seven teams turned in triple-digit rounds, Willcott's 101 was good enough to win a fifth-man tiebreaker and send LHS to state for the second year in a row.
St. Thomas Aquinas won the team title with a 307, Bishop Miege was the runner-up with a 327, and LHS and Gardner-Edgerton tied for third with a 372. Team scores are determined by the combined scores of each team's top four players. Tiebreakers go to the team whose fifth player has the lowest score. Gardner's fifth-man, Robert McGuire, shot a 104.
"My senior year I don't want to end on a 101," Willcott said, shaking his head at the high number. "That's what I was thinking coming into the last hole : I need to break 100 at least.
"At state I'll break 80."
Junior Maria Jackson was Lansing's top performer with an 85. Sophomore Josh Greene shot a 92, sophomore Kyle Willcott had a 97 and senior Stefan Froelich rounded out the Lions' top four with a 98. Junior Zach Robinson shot a 104.
An alternate for state the past two years, Ryan Willcott finally will get his chance to play at state.
For Jackson, this will be her second straight trip to state. She was Lansing's top performer at regionals for the second year in a row. The regional runner-up last year, she admitted this time was tougher because of the course.
"Basically once you went in the rough, you automatically knew you had to give up one stroke because the rough is so thick," she said. "You had to punch it out a lot. And then the wind started picking up toward the end. It was awful."
Jackson showed plenty of poise despite the adverse conditions. In fact, she shot par on three of the first five holes. She was solid off the tee and her putting was good. Only a shaky day chipping kept her out of the top 10.
LHS coach Bill Pekarek said he was particularly pleased with the performance of Greene and Kyle Willcott. Both have been among the Lions' most consistent players all season, and both were difference-makers Monday.
"The two sophomore kids have played pretty steady," Pekarek said. "We're trying to tell them get down there around 85 or something, and most of the time they have."
Although the Lions didn't shoot nearly as well as they'd hoped to, they'll get a chance to redeem themselves at 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 21, at the state tournament at Auburn Hills Golf Course in Wichita. Lansing placed 12th as a team last year, but Pekarek said the Lions are capable of competing with anybody if they all put their best rounds together on the same day.
"I've had a couple teams win state championships; I've been second twice; I've had teams finish fourth and sixth or seventh. All of those teams that have been pretty successful aren't that much different from these guys right here," he said. "It's just if they have confidence in what they're doing, if they think through their shots and take their time, then they can do it. At different times throughout the season, during practice or whatever, these guys have shot some pretty good golf scores. We just haven't put it together on tournament day, but I think we can."