By JIM MISUNAS
SALINA, Kan. – First-time state champions were crowned as Caney Valley’s Troy Watson (74) is his school’s first golf champion. Fredonia captured its first-ever team championship with a 329 total that beat Hesston by five strokes.
Watson, who has signed to play golf at Kansas Wesleyan University, won seven regular-season tournaments and Larned’s Colton Massey won eight regular-season tournaments.
It was Watson’s day to shine as he captured medalist honors with a 4-over-par 74 that was four strokes better than Massey (78). The runner-up was Syracuse’s Ira Kullot (76) with Fredonia’s Justin Solander, Hayden Rohr of Thomas More Prep and Sabetha’s Scott shooting 77s.
Watson’s championship was keyed when he converted back-to-back birdies at Nos. 7 and 8 while playing even par through 14 holes. Watson drilled a 330-yard drive to set up a 170-yard gap wedge downwind.
“That was my best drive of the day,” Watson said. “That hole really got my game going in the right direction.”
He followed up with a 30-foot birdie at No. 8 and played even par through 14 holes.
“I was pretty happy with how well I played today,” he said. “I thought if I played my best game, I’d have a good chance to win today.”
Watson’s only mistake was a four-putt double bogey at No. 15. He bogeyed three holes down the stretch.
“You really needed to play well around the greens,” he said. “The greens made you pay attention, especially downhill. You could putt them well past the hole if you didn’t putt it really well.”
Massey finished at 8-over 78 and was involved in a six-way playoff for medals marked six through 11. Massey lasted two holes, but finished as 11th-medalist behind Fredonia’s Jacob Mrkwa.
Fredonia captured its first team title (329) in school history with Hesston (334) and Sabetha (335) capturing the team trophies. Sterling (338) placed fourth.
Fredonia counted scores by Justin Solander (77), Jacob Mrkwa (78), Devin Voth (83) and Slae Short (91). Fredonia had previously won a 1983 state football championship.
“I knew it we’d get good scores from out top four guys, we’d have a shot at the state title,” said Fredonia coach Carl Dinkel. “Our guys have never played this type of fast greens. The pace of the greens was extremely challenging. The pace could get away from you. Our No. 1 player Devin Voth kept battling out there despite a tough day on the greens.”
Play was delayed 21/2 hours because of heavy rain and golfers faced 20 mph southerly winds and hard greens which putted extremely fast.
Massey put himself in birdie contention with accurate driving and decent iron shots on par 3s, but was unable to take advantage with his approach shots in a birdie-free round. He misfired on several wedge shots that he considered birdie opportunities.
“It was just a lot of little mistakes today cost me some strokes,” he said. “I missed some greens I had shots at. I missed too many greens. You can’t keep scrambling all day.”
Massey gave himself solid birdie chances on downwind par 5s at No. 7 from 190 yards and No. 18 from 220 yards, but misfired on both approach shots and missed getting up-and-down for birdies next to both greens.
“I hit the driver pretty well and had some really good up-and-downs for par,” he said. “I kept my patience together all day. I hit a bad iron shot at No. 7. I didn’t get up-and-down at No. 18. I had some 130-yard wedges I didn’t hit the greens on.”
Massey said the course was playable after the rain delay.
“Course conditions were good. They had it in perfect shape,” Massey said. “The greens were fast, but rolling pretty true. The winds were normal for here.”
TEAM TOTALS—1. Fredonia 329; 2. Hesston 334; 3. Sabetha 335; 4. Sterling 338; 5. Cheney 341; 6. Syracuse 342; 7. Caney Valley 350; 8. Hays-TMP 352; 9. Atchison-Maur Hill 353; 10. Pomona West Franklin 360; 11. Ellsworth 362; 12. Osage City 371
MEDALISTS—1. Trevor Watson, Caney Valley, 74; 2. Ira Kullot, Syrcause, 76; 3. Justin Soldander, Fredonia, 77; 4. Hayden Rohr TMP, 77; 5. Garrett Scott, Sabetha, 77; 6. Matt Percy, Central Heights, 77; 7. Will Kullot, Syracuse, 77; 8. Nick Schissler, Sterling, 77; 9. Trevor Watson, Caney Valley, 78; 10. Jacob Mrkwa, Fredonia, 78; 11. Colton Massey, Larned, 78; 12. Quinton Porter, Norton, 79; Owen Gartner, Sedgwick, 79; 14. Matt Mowry, Cimarron 80; Jake Huffaker, SE Saline, 80; 16. Grant Brenneman, Hesston, 81; Zach Schissler, Sterling, 81; Conner Epple, Sabetha, 81; Tanor Walker, Chaparral, 81; 20. Justin Fugitt, Cimarron, 82; Austin Hampton, Cheney, 82; Sam Sowers, Effingham-Atchison County, 82.