It has been years, decades perhaps, since Lawrence High’s boys golf team drove and chipped its way through a round at the Class 6A state tournament.
Today, the Lions will get their chance.
Thanks to a third-place team finish at last week’s regional tournament at Alvamar, the Lions will take six golfers to Topeka’s Shawnee Country Club today for a state competition that will include 12 teams and 94 total golfers.
The action begins early, with the first foursomes teeing off around 8:30 a.m. The first LHS golfer to tee off will be Steve Melton, who begins his round on hole No. 10 at 8:48.
Of course, today’s tournament will not be the first time on the course for many of the 94 participants. Several state-bound golfers made tee times for practice rounds throughout last week, hoping to familiarize themselves with the course before the big day arrived.
The Lions played their team practice round Saturday. LHS coach Dirk Wedd said three of the six golfers he took to Topeka shot rounds in the 70s and that the general feeling heading home was that the Lions had a chance to make some noise.
“That’s what it’s going to take to compete,” Wedd said. “We’re probably going to need four scores in the 70s to win, and that means we’ll need a couple of kids to step up and shoot low.”
Already accustomed to doing just that, the LHS team features three golfers who have fired rounds in the 70s this season. That includes senior Joe Noller, whose 76 was good enough to win the regional title a week ago. The others — senior Spencer Scott (third at the Lawrence Invitational) and Jon Cohen (the lone 2008 state qualifier) — should give the Lions’ a formidable 1-2-3 punch on a course that many say compares favorably to Alvamar Country Club, site of last week’s regional and home course to many of the LHS golfers.
However, Wedd said his team knows it will take more than three good scores to win state, and that’s why each player was focused during Saturday’s practice round.
“It was a lot of fun to take a whole team over and see the kids give their own take on how they would play a hole or what they would do in a certain situation,” Wedd said. “It was also really neat to hear them talk, on the way home, about how the course was tailor-made for their games.”
Being prepared and feeling good about one’s chances make up only half of the battle in golf. The Lions still have to show up and hit the shots. But, as Wedd said, confidence can go a long way in a sport like golf.
“As a team, we really haven’t shot that one great round of golf yet,” Wedd said. “But we think we can shoot low (today), and we feel good about the opportunity.”
The Lions will not be alone in representing the city at state. Free State High qualified two individuals — Seth McCauley and Parker Liebl — for today’s tourney.
McCauley, who shot 85 at regionals and qualified as one of six individuals on non-qualifying teams, is making his second consecutive trip to state. Last year, he was the Firebirds’ lone qualifier.
Liebl, who shot 84 at regionals, is making his first trip to state.