Free State High senior standout golfer Charlie Santaularia will be traveling solo to the Class 6A state boys golf tournament next Monday at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson.
Santaularia, last year's state runner-up, carded a 5-over-par 77 on Monday to finish third at the 6A regional at windy Eagle Bend. He was the lone Firebird to qualify for state.
"Of course I wanted to win, but as bad as I played, third place isn't too bad, I guess," said Santaularia, who won a five-hole playoff with Shawnee Mission Northwest's Rob Smyser for the third spot. "That was the longest playoff I've ever played in."
Lawrence High, coming off the Lawrence Invitational and Sunflower League titles last week, finished a disappointing fourth at regional with 325 strokes three behind Shawnee Mission West for the third and final state berth. Junior Spencer Wilson and sophomore Zach Blevins qualified as individuals for LHS, placing eighth and 10th, respectively. Both Lions shot 80s.
"I thought we were in pretty good shape after the front nine," LHS coach Ron Commons said. "We didn't score well enough on the last nine holes."
Santaularia carded a 38 on the front nine and 39 on the back. His round included a birdie, four bogeys and a double-bogey. The double-bogey came on No. 12.
"I was trying to hit it over the top of the trees and I pushed it," Santaularia said of No. 12. "The wind just took it over and it ended out of bounds. The wind was a real killer. It might have been the windiest conditions I've been in. I lost my balance on one backswing and topped it."
In the playoff, Santaularia bogeyed No. 10 and parred Nos. 11, 15, 16 and 17 to outlast Smyser.
Wilson parred his first playoff hole on No. 10 to finish eighth.
"Two bad swings made the difference between an 80 and 76," Wilson said. "I hit one out-of-bounds on 14 and on 16 I hit a wedge pure just like I wanted to, but I hit it over the green and made bogey. I swear the distance was off. I didn't get any putts to fall. They weren't running true today."
A mishap at the 18th tee box for one LHS golfer cost the Lions four strokes. Lion senior Mark Frederick and his two playing partners inadvertently teed off from the blue tees instead of the gold tees, which were 20 yards back.
Originally, Frederick finished with a bogey five on the hole and was prepared to sign his scorecard with a 78. However, an Eagle Bend worker notified meet manager Jack Schreiner, the Free State coach, that the threesome teed off from the wrong tees. All three golfers were penalized two strokes and had to play the hole again.
"They just blew it," Schreiner said. "I asked them if they remembered where they teed off from. I took them all back, left them at the blue tees and that's where they said they teed off from."
Frederick, rattled by the penalty strokes, hit his second tee shot on No. 18 out-of-bounds and finished with a nine as his final score ballooned to 82.
"I was the first one to tee off and the whole group didn't notice I was on the blues," Frederick said. "Part of the reason I hit the ball out-of-bounds was because I was so frustrated from the mistake I made."
Commons was surprised by the oversight.
"Nothing like that has every happened in my 26 years coaching," Commons said. "Those are things you learn from."
Wilson was disappointed the rest of his teammates couldn't join him at state.
"I wanted a state championship more than getting there as an individual," he said. "I can go play all the individual tournaments I want in the summer. The beauty of high school is it's a team game."
After qualifying his entire team for state the previous two seasons, Schreiner was also miffed his squad didn't advance. The Firebirds finished fifth with 338 shots.
"On Friday, we had a practice round and two of the six kids showed up," Schreiner said. "I question how sincere and serious they were on really qualifying in the first place."
Shawnee Mission Northwest won the team title with 312 strokes. SM East, led by regional champion Simon Thompson's 74, finished second at 318.
Team scoring: Shawnee Mission Northwest 312, SM East 318, SM West 322, Lawrence 325, Free State 338, Topeka 348, Leavenworth 370, SM North 373.
1. Simon Thompson, SME, 74. 2. Cole Chmielewski, SMNW, 76. 3. Charlie Santaularia, FS, 77. 4. Rob Smyser, SMNW, 77. 5. Jay Kramer, SMW, 79. 5. Evan Meyers, SMNW, 79. 5. Brian Donnelly, SMW, 79. 8. Spencer Wilson, LHS, 80. 9. Darren Keener, SMNW, 80. 10. Zach Blevins, LHS, 80.
Other LHS scores: 13. Mark Frederick 82. 18. Brett Buxton 83. 18. Camron Flanders 83. 22. Nate Spencer 84.
Other FSHS scores: 13. Brent Patterson 82. 30. Aaron Webber 88. 34. Richie Dunlop 91. 36. Tyler Yeakel 92. 36. Josh Grant 92.