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Defending champ: ‘Anyone can win’ city golf crown

July 12, 2013

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Six-time Lawrence Amateur Golf Association city champion Conrad Roberts had to sink a 20-foot par putt on the 36th and final hole last summer to win the tournament by one stroke. When this year’s championship gets underway this morning at Alvamar Golf Course, the defending champ expects repeating won’t be any easier.

Roberts, a former Kansas University golfer who won the LAGA five straight times from 2006 to 2010 before missing the event in 2011, looked at the pairings for this weekend’s championship flight and saw a number of strong contenders.

“Anyone can win it,” said Roberts, winner of six of the last seven city titles.

Roberts, former KU golf coach Kit Grove and KU senior Ryley Haas all rank in the top 13 in the Kansas Golf Association’s Player of the Year points standings and should contend for the LAGA title. Michael Rack, who finished second to Roberts in 2012, and William Gantz, who took third place by finishing four strokes off the lead, return for a crack at knocking Roberts off the top.

LAGA board member and tournament director David Lerner said someone who isn’t among the favorites could win this year, too, with one outstanding round.

“It’s not going to be a cake walk,” Lerner said.

Rack finished a stroke behind Roberts last year at the LAGA championship. The two have played a few rounds together since then and see each other occasionally at Alvamar or while playing in nearby tournaments. Rack said their battle for the 2012 title doesn’t get brought up by either party.

“It’s kind of like, ‘OK, that was one tournament,’ and you just kind of go on to the next one,” said Rack, who hopes to be in the same group with Roberts for Sunday’s second and deciding round at Lawrence Country Club.

Roberts expects Rack to have as good a chance as anyone this weekend: “He’s going to be awfully good.”

Gantz, Roberts and Grove will play with Tyler Cummins in the final group today. Rack will play in front of them, with Seth McCauley, Greg Sharp and Chuck Junge. Others competing in the championship flight are Haas, John Catlin, Steve Randall, John Taha, Mason Dick, Brett Van Blaricum, Matt Grammer and Spencer Scott.

With three men’s flights, two senior flights, two super senior flights and the women’s flight, 63 golfers are scheduled to play in the LAGA event.

Only six women will compete, down from seven in 2012. None of the six playing this year participated last summer. Lerner isn’t sure why the turnout for the women always runs low.

“This has been a mystery to me for years,” Lerner said. “One of the problems is the tournament is held at an awkward time. A lot of families are on vacation.”

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