Landon Berquist, Andrew Park stand out for Free State at 6A state golf tournament

LEAWOOD — For the distance-challenged, average golfer, par-3 holes can be as welcome as a friendly stranger with a filled gas can in hand is to a motorist stranded at a dangerous intersection.

Landon Berquist is not the average golfer. He’s well above-average, so different rules apply for him.

To Berquist, a junior at Free State High, the four shortest holes were fraught with danger at Iron Horse Golf Club in the 6A state tournament and the rest went very smoothly.

Berquist played the other 14 holes in even par, only to finish 5-over in a tie for 11th place. On the par 3s, he carded bogey, bogey, double bogey, bogey.

Berquist’s 77 made him low man for Free State, which placed sixth in the team scoring with 326 strokes. The top four scores from each school count. Shawnee Mission East won the title with 306 strokes, Blue Valley North (307) was second, Washburn Rural (308) third.

Washburn Rural’s Parker Beal shot a 69 to become state champion.

Free State sophomore Andrew Park joined Berquist in breaking 80 with a 79. Will Cook shot an 84, Tate Steele an 86, William Gard an 89 and Dylan Sommer a 93.

Ross Brungardt, who shot an 89, was the lone golfer to qualify for Lawrence High.

“I think we could have played better, but it’s state so nerves probably got in the way,” Berquist said of the Firebirds’ performance. “It’s fun to play in though. Time’s flying by, so you have to enjoy it.”

The highlight of Berquist’s day came on No. 15, a 344-yard par 4. He drained an uphill, right-to-left-breaking 30-footer for a birdie that he celebrated with a fist pump.

“You have to,” he said of the fist pump. “It’s a 30-footer.”

Playing the back side first, Berquist shot a 37 and finished with a 40.

Park shot 42 on his first nine and climbed all the way into a tie for 20th by shooting 37 on his second nine with eight pars. He was seven-over on his first six holes and even-par on his last 12.

What changed?

“I made a birdie and it hyped me up,” Park said.

And a tap-in birdie at that on No. 16, a 372-yard par 4. Park stuck a 7-iron to about 6 inches.

“It’s nice,” Park said of the course. “Pretty simple. Didn’t play simple though.”

Iron Horse is loaded with creeks and potential penalty strokes, Brungardt learned the hard way.

“I don’t think I’ve ever lost six balls,” Brungardt said and added he thought he might have hunted for one in a poison-ivy patch. “I thought this was a very good course when you don’t lose six balls. When you lose six balls it gets frustrating.”

Even so, he looked as if he enjoyed the experience of competing in state.

“It was a really fun time being with coach (Dirk) Wedd one last time,” Brungardt said. “He’s retiring, so it was just an honor being with him.”

It was the last coaching event at LHS for Wedd, the school’s long-time football coach and former baseball coach.


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