Free State boys golf aiming to make second day of Class 6A state tournament
photo by: Courtesy photo
Free State’s boys golf team is not just content with going to the Class 6A state tournament. The Firebirds want to play on the second day.
FSHS, which is coming off a runner-up finish at regionals, will begin this year’s state meet on Monday at Quail Ridge Golf Course in Winfield. The top six teams get the opportunity to play on the second and final day on Tuesday, so that’s Free State’s immediate objective.
“That’s our goal,” FSHS head coach Chuck Law said. “We are kind of around the eight seed right now, so we’re probably going to have to play our best golf of the year and hope a team or two don’t play their best round.”
Fortunately for the Firebirds, they are coming off their best showing of the 2021 season.
Free State shot 328 as a team and had all six golfers finish inside the top-23 on the individual leaderboard. The Firebirds finished second in the team standings, trailing Washburn Rural by just six strokes in the end.
That performance came on a tougher course at Topeka Country Club. Free State’s best round actually came a week prior when it shot 317 as a team, meaning this squad is trending in the right direction. And Law attributes that to the team’s commitment in practice all season.
“Our guys push each other a lot in practice,” Law said. “They do a lot of competitive things against one another, and I think that has helped.”
Law wasn’t sure what to expect with this team when the year started, because the Firebirds didn’t get to have a 2020 season due to COVID-19 and didn’t have many returning golfers at the varsity level.
Freshman Jack Randall has led the way for the Firebirds in his debut season. He won an individual title at regionals with a score of 76. He also notched an individual victory during the first leg of the Sunflower League Invitational.
Given the competition he has faced all year, Randall has a shot at winning a state title in his state debut.
“We knew he was going to be good, but I don’t think we knew he was going to be this good,” Law said. “He is incredibly confident in his ability and does a pretty good job walking that fine line between cocky and confident. If you are going to be good as a golfer, then you better have that edge and he’s got that edge.”
While Randall paces the Firebirds, plenty of other players have helped this team reach its full potential. Seniors Reece Gray and Cameron Packard are coming off top-10 finishes at the regional meet.
Senior Jackson McMillan, junior Dawson Pfannenstiel and senior Nathan Pilakowski all round out a nice balanced attack.
“I would say certainly we’ve exceeded expectations because we really didn’t know exactly what we had coming in,” Law said. “We haven’t won a regional or been close to winning a regional in a long time. We’ve come a long way over the year and certainly exceeded what expectations we had.”
Bishop Seabury’s golf team has also had a better year than it expected. The Seahawks will compete as a team in the Class 2A state golf tournament, which is slated for Monday and Tuesday at the Salina Municipal Golf Course.
It is actually one year ahead of schedule for BSA. When this freshman class originally came in a couple years ago, the plan was to put it all together during the 2022 campaign. So punching their ticket with a third-place finish at regionals was a welcome surprise.
“This was really kind of their building year to try to get tournament experience,” BSA coach Bryan Hedges said. “We certainly didn’t expect to qualify. So when we found out we did, they were just elated and excited and just jumping for joy.”
“This is the first time Seabury has ever had a full team go to state,” Hedges added.
As a result, this year’s trip could really set the Seahawks up for even more success next spring.
“It will mostly just be a good experience to see how all the other state qualifiers play and prepare,” Hedges said.
Despite not competing in very many tournaments this season, Bishop Seabury made strides throughout the year in practice. It all led to a strong showing at regionals, where the Seahawks shot 394 to take third as a team.
Junior Will Hedges won the individual title with a 73, and has a chance for a strong finish at the state meet. Junior Jonah Kim is coming off a top-10 finish as well. Truman Hill, Minkyu Jung and Beck Oldridge also hope to end the year on a high note.
Both state tournaments will begin at 9 a.m. Monday.