Topeka — The rolled, freshly cut greens were slicker and his putter didn’t cooperate as well as it did in the previous day’s practice round. Still, Ross Brungardt made his way around challenging Topeka Country Club well enough Monday that he put himself right at the projected cut line.
Brungardt shot a 90, and with several players still out on the course, his fate was out of his hands now.
All he could do was sit and wait for an hour. And root, root, root for the crosstown team.
That’s right. Brungardt, a 6-foot-7 junior at Lawrence High, found himself in the unfamiliar position of desperately wanting Free State to succeed in a sporting competition in which he still contended.
Here’s why: The top three teams at the regional, plus the top five individuals from teams that didn’t qualify, advanced to this coming Monday’s 6A state tournament at Ironhorse Golf Course in Leawood.
Shawnee Mission Northwest still had a golfer on the course and he needed to shoot below a certain number for the Cougars to edge Free State as the third-place qualifier. Free State had five golfers who shot lower than Brungardt and would have taken all the individual slots. SM Northwest took just two of those spots, leaving room for Brungardt to qualify.
“Whenever we lose in competition, I always go root for Free State because they’re my friends, but I’ve never rooted so hard for Free State,” Brungardt said. “I thanked every single player and coach. I’m just so thankful for them.”
The Firebirds edged the Cougars by three strokes, thanks to a balanced effort that had five of their six golfers shooting in the 81-to-84 range. Landon Berquist, Andrew Park and Tate Steele each shot 81. Will Cook carded an 83 and Dylan Sommer an 84. The top four golfers from each team count toward the score. Alex Gard shot a 92.
“It’s a great thing for them, especially our two seniors,” Free State coach Chuck Law said. “Tate and Will have been good leaders and role models and done a great job in our program. I’m happy to see both those kids get to state as seniors with the whole team.”
I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of them go low. Landon Berquist and Andrew Park and Will Cook and Tate and Dylan, I’ve seen them all shoot in the 70s. I think all those guys can shoot around par.”
Park, in fact, was even par through nine holes, carding a 35 on the front, before coming in at 46. Park’s 35 was the lowest nine-hole score among the 44 golfers competing.
C.C. Ghilardi, of Shawnee Mission Northwest, was low medalist with a 73.
Team scores: 1. Topeka Washburn Rural 309; 2. Olathe Northwest 321; 3. Free State 326; 4. Shawnee Mission Northwest 329; 5. Olathe North 381; 6. Topeka 462; 7. Shawnee Mission North 494.
Low Medalist: C.C. Ghilardi (SMNW) 73.
Free State: 8. (tie, listed in order of playoff finish) Landon Berquist 81, Tate Steele 81, Andrew Park 81; 13. Will Cook 83; 15. Dylan Sommer 84; 24. William Gard 92.
Lawrence: 18 (tie). Ross Brungardt 90; 31 (tie). Chris Conway 108.