Whitfield junior Drew Newlin finished third overall and helped his Warrior teammates to a second-place in the Class 2 state golf tournament.
Newlin shot a two-day total of 149 to finish three strokes out of first place. Whitfield finished with a team score of 686, eight back of state champion St. Pius X of Kansas City.
The tournament was played at Rivercut Golf Course in Springfield.
“The boys were really excited. They certainly believed that first was within reach, but they were pleased with the second-place finish,” Whitfield coach Michael Slater said. “I was proud of our guys. I’m not sure that anyone expected this from us.
“I tried to impress upon them all season that I felt that we were capable and they worked hard and started to believe as well. I was proud of how they hung in there and stayed focused.”
Slater said the boys played the course before the tournament began. The round helped them.
“After the practice round, the boys felt confident in their ability to manage their game around the course,” Slater said. “It provided some great information going into the tournament.
“I just emphasized staying patient. In golf, you know there will be a swing or two that you don’t like. But I reminded them to keep their composure and not to compound any mistakes.”
After first day, Warriors were three shots off lead with a 344. Slater liked what he saw from his squad after the opening round of play.
“We felt really good about our position,” Slater said. “Considering that we were seventh of the eight schools competing, we just wanted to position ourselves to be in the top four going into Day Two and try to make a move. However, our guys did a great job on Day One and we put ourselves in a great position.”
Slater’s message to his squad before the final round emphasized what he had told them earlier.
“The same – stay patient. I didn’t want them to focus on a score,” Slater said. “Simply keep doing what got us in that position. Focus on each shot.”
The Warriors did just that. Whitfield shot two strokes better at 342.
“They had confidence and stuck to the plan,” Slater said. “Even though we shot two strokes better, they all believed that we could’ve gone even lower. We were happy with the way they competed.”
The last second-place finish came in 2014 for Whitfield. The program is known for its excellence at state. The Wariors won the state champions in three consecutive years from 2010-2012.
With no state trophies since 2014, there were no huge expectations going into this season.
“My assistant (Garrett Ray) and I definitely believed,” Slater said. “I’m not sure that many others did but we put a plan in place and didn’t deviate. We were fortunate to have a group of guys that trusted our plan.”
Newlin led the way for Whitfield. Newlin is a basketball player. This was his first time out playing for the Warriors’ golf team.
“Drew had a phenomenal tournament. I don’t know that there are enough words to describe his season,” Slater said. “He loves golf, but this was his first time playing on the golf team. His 74 on the second day included a quadruple bogey and a double bogey. He could have gone really low and may have possibly competed for the individual crown as well.
“I’m extremely proud of how he kept his composure and stay focused. He played very well all season long and you could see his game coming into form as we continued through the post season.”
Sophomore Henry Nordlund tied for 31st with a 175.
“Henry had a good tournament as well,” Slater said. “Unfortunately, he broke his wrist last season just before the postseason and wasn’t able to compete. So, we were really excited for him to get the opportunity to compete this season.”
Senior Clayton Strege shot a 178 to finish 38th overall. His career as a Warrior now is over.
“I believe that every single person in the program is thrilled for Clay,” Slater said. “He qualified for state as an individual last season as a junior, but he was so focused on getting the team there this year.
“He has tremendous talent, but is extremely humble and is a team first guy. I am so happy for him and this was a great way for him to end his high school golf career.”
Junior Donald Diemer tied for 48th place with a 184.
“Donny Diemer was our ‘X’ factor,” Slater said. “Donny has an incredible amount of talent and he continued to improve all season. He’s a fiery competitor and holds himself to a very high standard. He did a great job of staying in the moment and had a solid tournament.
“We look forward to him continuing to work on his game and coming back for a strong senior season.”
The Warriors will lose Strege and Sam Miller to graduation. However, Whitfield will bring back three state qualifiers.
Slater is optimisitic about lies ahead for the program.
“The future definitely looks bright,” Slater said. “We had a number of guys that were competing for time in the first five. I’m sure that this will continue to get guys excited about working on their game.”