After missing a medal by one stroke at last year’s state golf tournament, Taylor Alderman was determined to place among the top 20 at this week’s Class 3-2-1A state competition.
The Council Grove golfer had no trouble securing a medal Monday at Cherry Oaks Golf Course in Cheney. She capped her high school career with a state championship.
“I was just wanting to play well,” said Alderman, a senior. “Everyone kind of said I was going to win, but I wasn’t expecting too much out of it.”
Alderman shot an 87, well ahead of Syracuse teammates Kiah Rash and Sydney Brown, who tied with 94. Rash won a playoff to claim second place.
Syracuse had a good day overall, winning its second consecutive state title. The defending champion turned in a team score of 397, beating the home team by 14 strokes. Cheney placed second with 411 while Russell took third.
“With us being the smallest school in the state tournament, always having to go up against bigger schools, it’s gratifying,” said Syracuse coach Rick Mathias.
He attributed the Bulldogs’ back-to-back titles to two factors: their home course (Tamarisk Golf Course in Syracuse) and the program’s stability. Tamarisk allows the girls to work on different shots and prepare for any conditions, he explained. Mathias also figured that his longtime golf partnership with his assistant coach, and a strong returning core this year, helped Syracuse succeed.
“It’s just a matter of continuity, consistency,” Mathias remarked.
The girls can be counted on to play during the offseason, he said. As a result, the veteran golfers stay sharp. The Bulldogs’ top three golfers returned this fall, and only one team member – Stephanie Geven – is a senior this year.
“They helped out a tremendous amount with our young players,” Mathias said.
Geven shot a 97 and finished in sixth place Monday. Shannon Lemons rounded out the team scoring with 112.
Despite winning a championship, Mathias admitted that the Bulldogs did not play their best golf Monday.
“These greens kept us from shooting real good scores because they have a lot of undulation,” he added.
Cheney’s top finisher was Brooklyn Lonker, who earned fourth place with a 96. The Cardinals’ Shianne Cokely carded a 101, followed by Taylor Wheelock (106) and Daleen Turner (108).
Mathias remarked that runner-up Rash “started out horrendous” Monday. Like Rash, Alderman said she struggled at the beginning of the tournament.
She wasn’t aiming for a state crown. Alderman said her goals for the season were to get her swing down and eliminate the big scores. She explained that her dad’s advice helped her keep her mental composure Monday despite early setbacks: He told her to keep her head up and keep smiling if she struggled.
“I think I’m still kind of surprised,” she said of her state win.
Mathias said he knew the Bulldogs had a chance for victory Monday, but the game comes down to playing one shot at a time. That, and extensive preparation, seem to be the winning formula for Syracuse.“We have three-hour, three-and-a-half-hour practices,” Mathias added, “and they don’t complain.”