In the first three golf tournaments of the season, Lawrence High junior Cole Brungardt has posted the lowest score on the team. Thursday was no different when Brungardt carded his best score of the season at the Free State Invitational at Eagle Bend.
Brungardt, who shot a five-over par 77, focused on improving throughout the offseason, and it didn’t take long to see the improved version of his game. After opening the round with a par on the ninth hole, he had a double bogey on No. 10.
“In the past, he would’ve gone, par, double and gone in the tank,” LHS coach Dirk Wedd said. “Now he’s mature. He knows he’s a leader.”
Instead of letting a bad start become worse, Brungardt followed with a birdie on No. 11. After that, he mostly settled in and finished strong with a 37 on the front nine. His play helped the Lions finish 12th in the 22-team tournament with 329 strokes. Free State took 11th with 322.
Brungardt’s improved play started with a changed mindset. He used to try to overpower the golf course with big drives. Now, he’s trying to set himself up for more manageable yardage, especially for his wedges.
“I was able to get comfortable and in my zone,” Brungardt said. “I played the back nine first and I didn’t play the best but I still managed to shoot 40. Then I came to the front side and hit eight of the nine greens in regulation. So on a day where my putting really wasn’t that solid, being able to hit so many greens kept me in there.”
Brungardt, who only plays a handful of times at Eagle Bend each year, said his biggest improvement is through his putting — though it didn’t always show Thursday. He replaced every club from last season, except for his putter and the familiarity has paid off.
“I’ve improved so much from last year,” Brungardt said. “I’ve become more consistent. I’ve really changed a lot of my game. But I still just haven’t had that one round where everything clicks. I’m playing well, but I can still play a lot better.”
After Brungardt, LHS senior Dawson Dykes shot an 82, junior Garrett Wildeman carded an 84 and sophomore Ross Brungardt finished with an 86.
“We’re starting to bunch it the way we’ve got to do it,” Wedd said. “I’d like to have back about five three-foot putts. But overall, we’re starting to figure it out a little bit.”
Free State junior Jack Junge led the Firebirds with a 77, finding his rhythm on the first four holes of the back nine. He shot three straight pars and birdied on No. 13.
But just as quickly as Junge started clicking, he had a bogey on the following three holes.
“My driving was very good,” Junge said. “I was hitting a lot of fairways. I just struggle on making short putts and it cost me.”
Free State coach Chuck Law added: “Jack is a very good player. We’ve counted his score in all four tournaments we’ve played in. He’s certainly been our most consistent performer all year. He’s another kid who just needs to have more faith in himself. He has a lot of game.”
Free State’s Will Cook shot an 80, Jack Flynn finished with an 82 and Landon Berquist had an 83.
But the Firebirds, who won the first leg of the Sunflower League tournament on April 4, know they are capable of shooting better than they did Thursday.
“That’s not a very good score for us,” Law said. “We’ve got guys who are capable of playing a lot better than they played today. It was a tough field. If we think we’re going to compete with the upper echelon schools in the state, we’re going to have to play better.”
Free State Invitational
Thursday at Eagle Bend
Team scores: Shawnee Mission East 297, St. Thomas Aquinas 305, Washburn Rural 307, Olathe Northwest 312, Blue Valley North 315, Blue Valley 318, Shawnee Mission Northwest 315, Blue Valley Southwest 319, Olathe East 321, St. James Academy 322, Free State 322, Lawrence 329, Shawnee Mission South 338, Shawnee Heights 340, Blue Valley Northwest 340, Blue Valley West 342, Topeka Seaman 345, Free State JV 353, Bishop Miege 374, Olathe North 397, Leavenworth 442.
Medalists: 1. Andy Spencer, SME, 72; 2. Griffin Mott, BV, 73; 3. Thomas Luger, SME, 73; 4. Will Wilk, SJA, 73; 5. Christian Ghilardi, SMNW, 74; 6. Andrew Cunningham, STA, 75; 7. Owen Hill, SME, 75; 8. David Gutgesell, OE, 75; 9. James Loomis, STA, 75; 10. Blake Allen, SMNW, 76.
Free State results: Jack Junge 77, Will Cook 80, Jack Flynn 82, Landon Berquist 83, Carson Ziegler 86, Tate Steele 91.
Lawrence High results: Cole Brungardt 77, Dawson Dykes 82, Garrett Wildeman 84, Ross Brungardt 86, Thomas Taber 91, Joe Mandigo 93.
Free State JV results: Bailey Plannenstiel 84, Dylan Sommer 89, Justin Siler 89, Edin Mehmedovic 91, Ty Stewart 92, Cody Thompson 107.