Free State High senior-to-be Seth McCauley knew it was just a matter of time before a few rounds in the 70s turned into victories.
His vision came true Friday at the Sunflower State Games in Topeka, where McCauley fired a 74 at Lake Shawnee Golf Course to win the 15-17-year-old division by a stroke.
The 74, which McCauley shot while playing just his second round at the Topeka course, was not a career best. That came a week earlier when he shot a 73 at Liberty Hills in a tournament on the Kansas City Juniors Tour in Liberty, Mo. The 73 was good for third, but McCauley said the 74 felt so much better.
"I was just ecstatic," he said. "This has been a goal of mine and after every goal you meet it's time to make another one. That's my thought now, next is par, then under par and winning another one."
McCauley's rise to his first tournament victory has been a slow and steady climb. As a freshman, he was cut from the Free State golf team, but the setback proved to be minor and simply fueled his self-imposed need to improve. The next year he bounced back and made the squad and flirted with the line between junior varsity and varsity. By his junior season, he had become Free State's No. 1 golfer and was the only Firebird to qualify for the state tournament. But the 83 he shot at Eagle Bend Golf Course at Regionals in May seems like a lifetime ago for McCauley, who now has five rounds in the 70s to his name - all of them coming this summer.
"I've been working my butt off all summer," he said. "It's all about improvement. Even after winning my first tournament, I woke up (Saturday) and immediately started thinking about what I can do to get better. I got my first taste of victory and now that's all I can think about."
McCauley, who turned 17 in October, said working in the pro shop at Lawrence Country Club and having access to that course, as well as taking lessons and pointers from the LCC pros, lifted his game to a new level.
Now, it's his confidence that has reached an all-time high. With the high school season more than eight months away, McCauley said he was fixed on lowering his handicap - from 5 - and gearing up for one more run at the state tournament.
"With this victory under my belt, and almost a full year left to prepare still, that's all I'm thinking about," he said. "I'm really anxious to see if I can become more consistent and shoot in the 70s all the time."