SPRINGFIELD — Rockhurst senior Patrick Byrne carved out a prime viewing spot near the leader board at Rivercut Golf Course and watched as the scores slowly trickled in.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
He was particularly fixated on the team race in the Class 4 state golf tournament, but a teammate observantly pointed out his two-day total was the lowest individual score posted.
“Wow,” said Byrne, who entered Tuesday in 11th place. “I may only lose this by a couple of shots.”
He did a little better than that.
Byrne erased a 7-shot deficit to share the Class 4 state championship with Vianney junior Matt Mueller. Each posted two-day totals of 146.
After nearly shooting himself out of the tournament Monday — or so he thought, anyway — Byrne bounced back to card a 2-under 70, the day’s lowest score. Blue Springs South senior Nick Rehmer matched that number and finished in a three-way tie for sixth, along with opening-day leader Adam Lechner of Kearney and Liberty senior Zac Dittmer.
“I felt coming in that I would need to post something like a 68 to even think about winning, and with the wind out here, I thought that was a little crazy,” Byrne said. “But I didn’t count myself out.”
Neither did the Hawklets, and Byrne’s round nearly helped them defend their Class 4 title. After entering the day in fifth place, Rockhurst settled for second, only 2 shots behind Timberland’s score of 619. Park Hill South placed sixth with a team total of 640.
Byrne kept it interesting with an eventful back nine that included only one par. He birdied five of the final nine holes, including a string of three straight, to put pressure on a final group that didn’t have the luxury of scoreboard watching. Those five birdies, though, were partially offset by three bogeys and a missed birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given Byrne outright medalist honors. Of course, he didn’t know it at the time.
While he made his charge, the leaders from Monday quickly faded.
After posting a 69 on Monday for a 2-shot advantage, Lechner shot 7-over par on the first 10 holes Tuesday, paving the way for Dittmer to take a brief 3-shot lead over Mueller on the back nine. The advantage on Lechner was 4.
“It was over in my mind,” Lechner said. “But once I calmed down and talked to my coach, I realized I still had a good as a shot as anybody.”
The lead for Dittmer didn’t last. A four-time state qualifier, Dittmer began a string that included three bogeys and one double bogey in a span of only six holes.
“My putter let me down,” said Dittmer, who placed sixth for the third consecutive year. “I shot even on the front, but then I shoot 6 over on the back. I missed about six or seven putts inside 5 feet in two days. You can’t do that and expect to win.”
After Lechner fought back to pull ahead of Dittmer and Mueller with a birdie on No. 16, Mueller closed out his round with consecutive birdies to draw even with Byrne, who had completed his round nearly an hour earlier. Mueller said he received his first score update while putting for eagle on No. 18. He narrowly missed the putt, setting up a tap-in for the tie.
“Sharing it is good with me,” Mueller said. “We both deserved to win.”
Pembroke Hill takes third
A shaky start to the state tournament gave way to an impressive finish, allowing Pembroke Hill to climb the team standings and place third in the Class 3 state championship at Sedalia Country Club.
Excelsior Springs took eighth.
Pembroke sophomore Preston Fleenor tied for seventh place, 4 shots behind Notre Dame (Cape Girardeau) winner Jack Litzelfelner. Fleenor was the Raiders’ lone player to have played in the state championship meet prior to this season. The team’s five-man lineup included just one senior.
“It’s a learning experience for our guys,” Pembroke coach Evan Scobie said. “Going forward, they’re only going to get better. Next year, we’ll be outstanding.”
Barstow places third
Barstow cut 4 strokes off its first day score, but it wasn’t enough to make up ground in the team standings. The Knights finished in third place (662), while favorite St. Peters Lutheran (635) held on for the team victory.
Barstow’s Alec Adkins placed 14th with a two-day score of 159. Lutheran’s Justin Wrozier made his first-round lead stick and won the event by 10 strokes.