Getting to the state golf tournament is almost becoming old hat for the Chaminade Red Devils.
Chaminade will tee it up Monday and Tuesday in the Class 4 state tournament at Silo Ridge Golf and Country Club in Bolivar.
It marks the fifth trip in the last six years for the program. Last year, Chaminade finished second. Before that, there were two third-place finishes and one in fifth.
Chaminade has had four state championship teams. The last came in 2004.
Coach Jack Wilson said his squad knows the history.
“All season long, we have been focusing on the tradition of our golf program,” Wilson said. “The guys are aware of the last time we won state, and since the season began, they have set another championship as a goal.
They have been a focused and fun group to coach the past couple of years, and I really do hope that they play well in Bolivar.”
The Red Devils earned their trip to state by finishing second in the Sectional 1 tournament in Jackson. Host Jackson won with a 290. Chaminade finished with 297 at Kimbeland Country Club. The top two teams in the sectional move on to play at state.
“Survive and advance,” Wilson said. “First or second place at districts and sectionals doesn’t matter. Just get through to the next stage, and for us that means a spot in the state tournament.
“Honestly, our objective was to get to state. The boys would have loved winning the sectional and showing their talents. That said, Jackson is really good, and my guys thought they played very well.”
Wilson noted Jackson was playing on its home course.
“It was obvious that the Jackson players felt very comfortable on their home course. I think most of the guys grew up playing the course,” Wilson said. “They knew where to play it safe and where they could apply some pressure. They also had a couple of tricks up their sleeves. So, we’ll take second and look forward to playing them on neutral ground.”
Junior Josh Heidenry shot even par 71 to finish second and lead the Red Devils.
“Josh has been steady for us all season,” Wilson said. “He had a mild hiccup at districts (10 over 82) , so it does not surprise me that he would rebound this way.
“That’s the thing about this team: I never know who is going to rise to the occasion. I am hoping that they all decide to shoot well on the same two days next week.”
Freshman Ryan Walsh was third in the sectional with a 72.
“Ryan plays in a number of local and national tournaments during the summer. I keep an eye on my players during the offseason, and I have seen him shoot some nice scores like this,” Wilson said. “On Monday, I watched him casually drain a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 15 and then bounce his approach shot off the pin two holes later. He will be fun to watch over the next couple of years.”
Senior Michael Bugyis was 10th with a 75
“Michael played well at districts, and again on Monday he showed why he’s going to state for a second straight year,” Wilson said. “His experience at last year’s tournament will be a big help to our underclassmen.”
Senior Zach Walsh was 22nd with a 79.
“Zach had some issues off the tee, and he battled through it for most of the round on Monday,” Wilson said. “He finished second overall in Class 4 last year, and we anticipate another fantastic tournament from him at Silo Ridge.”
So, all of the Chaminade scores used were in the 70s.
“All five of my guys are capable of shooting good scores,” Wilson said. “Throughout the season, they have played well at one tournament or another. For us to be successful next week, we will need all of them to play well at the same time.”
The Red Devils will play a practice round Sunday at Silo Ridge. Wilson is “very familiar” with the course.
“After the practice round on Sunday, we will devise a strategy that will hopefully get the best golf out of our team,” Wilson said. “We have been at Silo Ridge a couple of times. The most recent was 2016, when we came in third place, despite freezing temperatures and lots of rain.”
State experience should help Chaminade. Both seniors and Heidenry are state qualifiers.
“Their experience from a year ago will be a big help as we prepare the two younger guys,” WIlson said. “As I tell them, playing in a summer tournament is one thing, representing your school at the state tournament is a much different experience!
“This will be Zach’s third trip to state. Two years ago, we lost the title by five strokes. Last year, Zach was the leader after the first round and ended up in second place. And this will be Michael’s second trip there. As seniors, they are both looking to finally bring home the championship, and they would love nothing more than to present the trophy to the student body on Senior Day next Friday.”
Wilson said any of the Red Devils could be the medalist at state.
“The great thing about this team is that we do not rely on one golfer to help our score. If we do well next week, it will be because all five of them played their absolute best,” Wilson said. “If one of them happens to go really low, that will be frosting on the cake. But, I guarantee you, that if you asked any of them, they would give up an individual title for the chance to be recognized as a member of the team champion.
“The guys don’t really wear their emotions on their sleeve. They have a quiet confidence about them, and I know they are really looking forward to hitting that first drive down the first fairway and getting things under way.”
Besides Chaminade, the other teams at state are Blue Springs South, Glendale, Jackson, Lafayette, Marquette, Rockhurst and Rock Bridge. Last year, Rock Bridge won state and in 2017 Rockhurst did. Glendale won state in 2016.
“We have played in tournaments against most of the teams this year,” Wilson said. “This seems to be the most balanced championship in recent years. It should be a shootout for the title. “
Wilson is happy to have his program mentioned along with the other state powers.
“When I took over the program 10 years ago, we had some individual talent, but we could never seem to get the team into the state tournament,” Wilson said. “When they instituted the sectional tournament, we really struggled to advance beyond that. We have been to the tournament as a team five of the last six years, and I am thankful to the parents and boys who have put in the long summer hours of practice and tournaments to give us the opportunity to be successful.
“We also have some younger players with talent that are eager to fill the void that will be left by this year’s seniors. ”
Can Chaminade come home with a state championship?
“If my guys play to the best of their ability, it could be fun to watch next week,” Wilson said. “Let’s hope that they can overcome any jitters and focus on the mechanics of their game. If they can do that, then we should be in good shape.”