Tonganoxie golfers represent KVL, finish 2nd at state championships
Golf might very well be a game in which the greatest individual garners the glory and accolades, but on Monday at the Class 4A state tournament in Hutchinson, Tonganoxie High learned just how valuable each member of its team could be.
Riding on the strength of a pair of low scores from unexpected sources at Prairie Dunes Country Club, the Chieftains finished 2011 as the second-best team in the state.
Junior Colby Yates’ fourth-place score of 74 led THS, but an 85 from both its No. 5 and No. 6 golfers salvaged the team score, bringing it down to 332 — two strokes ahead of third-place Wellington and 11 strokes behind state champion Topeka-Hayden.
Both junior Kody Campbell and sophomore Tyler Hall, who have been at the bottom of the Tonganoxie golf totem pole this season, had what Chieftains coach Jared Jackson called “the round of their lives” on the biggest stage of the year.
Watching the final scores being posted Monday afternoon, Jackson said the first two off the course for Tonganoxie were the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 golfers, junior Tanner Hale and sophomore Aaron Williams. With Hale at 90 and Williams at 95, the coach said their scores came in higher than expected. Freshman Drew Sandburg came in with a solid score of 88, but it looked as if THS, which finished fourth at state in 2010, didn’t have a very good shot of bringing home a state trophy with a top-three finish in the team standings.
Campbell said he didn’t think his score would be so important.
“I’m happy I could come in with a low score,” he said, “and help the team get second place.”
Jackson said golf is, in fact, a team game — noting Tonganoxie wouldn’t have qualified for state without quality rounds from Hale and Williams at the regional tournament — and the ability of Campbell and Hall to shoot 85 is what allowed the Chieftains to finish second at state.
“One through six have to all be ready to contribute,” the coach said.
As much as Jackson trusted his team, he admitted he hadn’t expected Hall, a sophomore with no previous state experience, to post such a low score — especially considering his average had hovered near 100 this year and he had just come off a 101 at a regional tournament one week earlier. Hall’s previous best score this year was a 91 and he beat that by six strokes at one of the toughest courses in Kansas, thanks in large part to a chip-in birdie on his 17th hole (hole No. 8, rated the toughest on the course) and a par on his final hole of the day.
“I don’t know where you scale unexpected but it was pretty high,” Jackson said of Hall’s round.
When Hall finally finished his round (he was in the second to last group to tee off), he said his whole team came up to congratulate him and it was readily clear his score had surprised everyone.
“My parents are going psycho because I shot an 85,” he said of the scene.
Though Campbell hadn’t typically been finishing with one of the top scores for the Chieftains, Jackson said he wasn’t as surprised when the junior, who played at state last year, finished at 85.
“Kody’s been striking the ball like a No. 2 for the past two weeks,” Jackson said. “He finally avoided the high number.”
Yates, who had practiced alongside Campbell of late, said he thought his teammate was capable of having a good round at state.
“He’s been hitting it great,” Yates said. “It was just a matter of time before he broke out.”
Jackson said part of what helped Hall and Campbell was the relative lack of fanfare and expectations surrounding the groups in which they played, and the golfers agreed.
Said Hall: “I’m the sixth man. I’m thinking one through five is gonna score low. I don’t have to worry about my score. I just need to go out and play.”
Added Campbell: “Going in, I really don’t, playing as the five man, have too much pressure.”