Lawrence Country Club isn’t exactly the most popular destination in the Sunflower League.
Then again, most courses that ruin players’ rhythms with challenging greens and leave them grumbling about their high scores at the end of a round don’t hold a special place in the hearts of high school golfers.
“We all kind of knew what was coming,” Free State junior Emily Bermel said after taking fifth place, with an 84, Monday at the Free State Invitational. “I think everyone knows that LCC is one of the harder courses of the year.”
The only Firebird to break 100, Bermel said Deer Creek Golf Club in Overland Park and LCC are known as the most troublesome 18-hole stretches of the fall. FSHS (411) finished in sixth place at the tourney, won by Olathe Northwest (365).
“There’s one person who played amazingly,” Bermel said of the Firebirds’ home event, which served as the second leg of the Sunflower League championship, “and that’s Audrey (Judd, of Olathe Northwest, who won by 11 strokes with a 71). But other than that, everybody has to kind of get through at LCC. If you shoot well, it’s a good feeling.”
For Bermel, currently in third place in the chase for the Sunflower League individual title, with one round to go on Wednesday, surviving LCC without an awful score meant not over-thinking every shot.
“The greens are super-fast, and they’re firm,” she said. “Even if you hit a good iron shot, it could roll off.”
The city’s top golfer narrowed in on her process on the final four holes, shooting 1-under through that stretch.
“I finished well, which kind of gives me confidence going into the next tournament,” added Bermel, who hopes to lower her score in each of her next two rounds — the regular-season finale and a Class 6A regional Monday in Wichita. “I can kind of build off of that.”
Lawrence High, led by top-20 finishes from Abby Schmidtberger (92) and Campbell Drake (96), placed eighth out of 13 teams at the Free State Invitational.
When the Lions gathered at the end of their rounds to talk shop, it seemed every LHS player went through at least one agonizing hole.
“We weren’t very happy with how we did,” Drake said. “But we’re all improving. That’s good.”
For Drake, a pair of 8s on the senior’s round had her shaking her head when it was time to total the strokes on her score card.
On her first problem hole, she chipped four times.
“It’s really frustrating when you do it, especially when everyone else is on the green and it’s just you,” Drake said, able to smile about it post-round. “You don’t really have time to try to recover in between. You just try and move on. But it’s hard.”
Both Lawrence High and Free State will play the third and final leg of the Sunflower League championship Wednesday at Olathe East’s tournament.
Team standings: 1. Olathe Northwest, 365; 2. St. Thomas Aquinas, 369; 3. Shawnee Mission East, 370; 4. Olathe East, 386; 5. Blue Valley North, 388; 6. Free State, 411; 7. Olathe South, 411; 8. Lawrence 413; 9. Blue Valley, 414; 10. Shawnee Mission Northwest, 430; 11. Shawnee Mission South, 463; 12. Shawnee Mission North, 494; 13. Leavenworth, 508.
Top 10 players (medalists) — 1. Audrey Judd, ONW, 71; 2. Nicole Pickett, OE, 82; 3. Maddie Kroll, BVN, 83; 4. Sophie Wetzler, SME, 84; 5. Emily Bermel, FSHS, 84; 6. Nikkie McCurdy, BVSW, 85; 7. Jamie Bickert, BVSW, 85; 8. Bailey Gibson, OS, 87; 9. Ashley Root, STA, 89; 10. Halle England, ONW, 89
FSHS individuals: 5. Bermel, 84; tie-34. Karen Campbell, 105; tie-41. Erin Meyers, 111; tie-41. Maddie Williams, 111; tie-52. Catie Griffin, 116; tie-57. Anne Goebel, 119.
LHS individuals: Tie-14. Abby Schmidtberger, 92; tie-19. Campbell Drake, 96; tie-38. Gracie Reinsch, 110; tie-47. Izzy Schmidtberger, 115; 60. Maddie Goscha, 120; 67. Bonnie Reinsch, 140.
Sunflower League individual leaders (2 of 3 rounds complete) — 1. Judd, ONW, 142; 2. Pickett, OE, 166; 3. Bermel, FSHS, 169; 4. Wetzler, SME, 172; 5. Gibson, OS, 173; 6. England, ONW, 174; 7. A. Schmidtberger, Lawr., 176; 8. Chloe Kraus, ONW, 181; 9. Jessica Young, SME, 183; tie-10. Alex Maday, SME, 184; tie-10. Rachel Larberg, SMS, 184.