DODGE CITY — Thanks to a second-place showing at its regional tournament, the Labette County Grizzlies boys golf team competed at the delayed, relocated KSHSAA 4A State Golf Tournament at the Mariah Hills Golf Course in Dodge City on Wednesday.
The tournament had originally been scheduled for last week in Winfield but was moved due to weather delays throughout the state that crippled state golf tournaments.
“In talking to everybody, I think this was the first time ever that every single class was rained out to some degree,” Labette County Jack Leake said. “They’re in multiple locations all over the state. KSHSAA did the right thing. Winfield did their best to make it work, but I didn’t mind driving the five hours to Dodge City. It was a good, dry course our kids got to play on.”
Labette County finished seventh in the final team standings, posting a team score of 349 strokes. Trinity Academy out of Wichita won the team state title with 315 strokes, followed by Wellington at 331. Andale was third at 336, followed by Fort Scott (339), Wamego (341) and Hayden (342).
“I was really pleased,” Leake said. “Our best finish this season was around 335. We have the potential to finish in the top-four. It was a good note for us to end on. We have a good nucleus better.”
Jack Leake was the top finisher for the Grizzlies, taking fourth in the individual standings as he shot a five-over-par 76. Leake tied for third with Fort Scott’s Nicholas King but lost the ensuing playoff.
Leake, a junior, parred the first eight holes on the front nine before bogeying the ninth hole.
Leake then had four bogeys on hole Nos. 13, 15, 16 and 16 on the back nine.
“He deserved it,” Leake, the golfer’s father said. “It’s hard to talk about your own son. But he works at it. He’d be at the course before school started. I was hoping he’d play well because he’s worked for that. Every tournament, he’s been within three strokes of 79. He played so solid yesterday. He had a few birdie putts and made a lot of pars. He kept the ball in play and had a good short game. I was happy for him.”
Ryan Gartner shot a 17-over-par 88 for the Grizzlies to place 34th. The fellow junior for Labette County parred two holes on the front nine then four more on the back nine.
“When I watched Ryan,” Leake said, “he hits the ball as well as anybody. He’s a great ball striker. On Wednesday, he struggled with the greens. He couldn’t find a pace. His best score this year was a 77. So he’s got the game to shoot in the low 80s. But that was still a good score for him.”
Benjamin Smith, a senior, finished 54th in the individual standings by shooting a 21-over-par 92. Smith had a birdie on the par-three 11th hole and added pars on hole Nos. 5, 6, 8 and 17.
“I have a lot of respect for Ben,” Leake said. “He’s been steady for four years. His stroke average was around 120 his freshman year and he’s dropped it 24 strokes. He’s just really improved over four years.”
Grizzlies teammate Eli Hestand, a freshman, finished one spot behind Smith at 55th. Hestand parred four holes in the tournament.
“He’s such a talented athlete,” Leake said. “He came out in his first tournament this year and shot an 88 at Miami (Okla.) in the rain. We’ve worked on his swing throughout the year and made some major changes. He’s really worked on improving his game going forward. He’s fought the tendencies to go back to some old ways. People don’t realize what he’s been doing all year.”
Finally, Dakota Payne, a sophomore, finished 78th with a 37-over-par 108 on the afternoon.
“Dakota has only started golf last year,” Leake said. “He’s gone from not knowing how to hold a club to going to state. You wait a year, he’ll be shooting in the 80s for us. It’s great for him to go to this tournament and experience it. That’s the best way to improve.”
Trey Mathis of Labette County, as well as Andrew Farris of Parsons, were scheduled to compete in the tournament but withdrew as a result of the delays.
Caden Vanlandingham of Trinity won the individual state title with a score of two-over-par 73, beating out teammate Sam Majors by two strokes.
Leake, Gartner, Hestand and Payne are all set to return to the Labette County golf team next year as the Grizzlies aim to return its entire team to the state tournament in 2020.
“We’re going to be OK next year,” Leake said. “I was happy with how the year ended up. Hopefully we’ll go back to state next year.”