Andrew Cunningham ran out of the clubhouse at Salina Municipal Golf Course, rushing through the rain to catch a glimpse of St. Thomas Aquinas’ final putt at the Kansas Class 5A boys golf championship on Monday.
Senior teammate Jared Loomis was on the 18th green, 1 stroke away from giving Aquinas the birdie it needed to secure a second straight state title. He’d just chipped it from about 20 yards out, from an uncomfortable spot under a low-hanging tree by the cart path, and the gathered crowd gasped as the ball rolled past the cup.
Loomis knew he hadn’t gotten enough of the ball to sink it, but he was surprised nonetheless to find it waiting 3 feet from the hole, just downhill. He only had to make his putt, and Aquinas, leading Andover by only two strokes, would be free to celebrate with some ice cream from Braum’s.
“It seems like a dream right now,” Loomis said. “It was a pressure-filled moment when I knew I had to make that putt.”
Cunningham didn’t make it back from the scorer’s table in time to watch Loomis’ putt go in, but he heard plenty about it once the team, which finished first with a score of 301, was together again.
“That’s just Jared for you,” said Cunningham, who shot a 78. “Crazy finish … I still haven’t really processed it yet.”
Loomis shot a 75, tied with junior Jack Seiler for the second-best score on the team, and had to battle waterlogged roughs with a team that last year shot 299 and won the championship by 8 strokes. Instead of securing the crown easily, Aquinas had to contend with Zach Sokolosky, the tournament medalist who shot 67 and gave Andover an early lead.
St. James Academy finished close behind in third place, with a score of 303, led by Jordan Klis’ 73 and fellow senior William Wilks’ 75 providing a spark for a team that last year placed sixth at 325.
But with Loomis’ last-chance birdie and junior Cannon Miller leading the team with a score of 73, Aquinas pulled out a nerve-racking victory to give the school and coach Ryan Best a fifth boys golf championship.
“It was one of the coolest finishes to a state tournament that I’ve ever been involved with,” said Best, in his 19th year coaching at Aquinas. “We wanted to go tackle Jared on the green or something but we weren’t sure if we had it or not. It was so close all day, and I knew it was going to come down to the last hole. But we’re just happy we got it.”
Immaculata might not have closed its doors with a third consecutive Class 1A boys golf title. But the Leavenworth school can still write a state title winner into its final chapter.
Senior Evin Wheaton led the field at the Sugar Hills Golf Course in Goodland with a 4-over 75. Wheaton beat second-place Michal Holada of Goessel by 5 strokes for his first medalist honors.