For much of the season, Blue Valley West’s boys golf team was overshadowed.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Shawnee Mission East had won eight straight tourneys entering the Kansas Class 6A state tournament, which the Lancers hosted Monday at Meadowbrook Golf and Country Club in Prairie Village. And BV West’s rival Blue Valley North had won the East Kansas League championship.
But the Jaguars, who finished behind both teams during the regional a week earlier, didn’t take a backseat to anyone at state, claiming a 6-stroke victory and the program’s first 6A golf title led by surprising senior Josh Barker.
“We were the lost team all year long, but that’s fine with us,” said BV West coach Kevin Bandy, whose team won 5A titles in 2002 and 2006. “When you don’t have the pressure and you can just go out and play, you see what happens. You win a 6A title. We knew all along if we played well we had a chance.”
Of course, the Jaguars didn’t figure it would be Barker leading the way.
Playing state for the first time in his career, Barker posted a 1-over par 72, which was good enough for third place.
“It feels awesome,” Barker said. “It’s my senior year and this is the first time I’ve played at state or even regionals, so it’s a pretty good way to end my career.”
BV West sophomore James Henderson backed up Barker with a 73, finishing fifth after a three-way playoff with Southern Methodist-bound BV North senior Alex Higgs (fourth) and Kansas State-bound SM East senior Connor Knabe (sixth).
Seniors Gabe Millikan and Chad Carlson finished in a four-way tie for 16th at 78, rounding out the Jaguars’ four scorers.
Of course, Bandy wouldn’t be mad if BV West still had work to do. In fact, he’d prefer a two-round state tournament rather than the state’s antiquated one-round format for state golf.
“It’s a travesty that our kids don’t have the opportunity to play in a two-day state,” he said. “Are we happy we won it? We’re ecstatic, but I hope the state gets on it — every coach, every parent, every player wants a two-day state.”
Heavy favorite SM East — which calls Meadowbrook home and hadn’t lost to a Kansas team at any other tourney this season — wound up second after totaling a 306, which was one better than Washburn Rural (307) but not good enough to beat BV West (300).
“I can’t put my finger on it,” Lancers coach Ermanno Ritschl said, “because 306 is the second-worst score we’ve had this season. They should have been loose and they looked loose, but it’s one of those things where you can’t afford to have an off day in a one-day tournament.”
Knabe was SM East’s top finisher, while Kansas-bound senior Chase Hanna, who had won or tied for first at six of nine tourneys entering state, won a three-way playoff for eighth after shooting 76.
“It’s very disappointing, but at the end of the day it’s just one round,” Hanna said. “I just didn’t play well today. That’s pretty much it, but it’s a shame we didn’t finish off the great year we had.”
Olathe East senior Alex Springer (ninth, 76) and Olathe Northwest sophomore Dillon Funk (10th, 76) rounded out the top 10.
Washburn Rural’s Andrew Beckler sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat teammate John Wright for the individual gold.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.