Caleb Hendricks may be the most appreciative champion in the history of the McPherson High Invitational Golf Tournament.
The Sterling senior was overcome with emotion after standing alone at the mountain top over 78 other golfers on Thursday at Turkey Creek.
What made Hendricks’ feat remarkable was that this is only his second year of playing competitive golf, yet he was able to outlast such stars as defending Invitational champion Turner Wintz of Hutchinson and 2013 Invitational champion Kale Reynolds of Maize.
Tears welled in Hendricks’ eyes as he saw the final score posted and he had secured his first-ever championship. His 76 was remarkable on a day where conditions were unbearable, as the wind howled out of the north and temperatures dropped by the minute.
“It was terrible out there,” said Hendricks, who was both laughing and crying following his round. “There were times I was second-guessing myself on just about every shot and worrying about what club to hit. I just tried to clear my head before everything and focus on one shot at a time.”
Hendricks shot rounds of 37-39. He bogeyed Nos. 1 and 2 as well as No. 4, but played the final five holes on the front 1-under, spiked by a birdie on No. 9.
His final hole actually was No. 12, where he made a double-bogey and thought that might be a dagger to his chances. He had six pars on the back nine to go with two bogeys and a double.
Hendricks’ teammate, Nick Schissler, was the runner-up with a 78 as the 3A school showed no fear against a field chockfull of 6A and 5A schools. The Black Bears, though, didn’t have enough depth as Maize won the team title with 340, one shot better than Derby and two better than Hutchinson.
Derby’s Zach Frazier was the only other golfer to break 80 with a 79.
“I don’t ever remember them (the conditions) being tougher here for this tournament,” MHS coach Kurt Kinnamon said. “It was very tough. Cold, windy. You know those two top scores are outstanding scores. I think Sterling marked their territory for somebody to contend with in Class 3A.”
For the Bullpups, who were coming off a second-place finish on Monday at El Dorado, they faded to ninth. Jacob Lackey and CJ Steiner both shot 90 to lead the way, while other scores were Casey Cheek (97), Kaden Warren (99), Drew Pyle (99) and Tommy Smith (100).
“I think they’re disappointed,” Kinnamon said. “I think they thought they’d play better. They have been practicing better, shooting better scores. We just have to continue to get better. It was one of those days where maybe a good score (on a hole) was a double bogey, and some of us let them get away to triples and quads. We need to do a better job of keeping the damage to a minimum and realize sometimes bogey is a good score.”
Wintz’s attempt to defend his title got away early and he finished with an 88, 17 strokes more than his winning number last year. Reynolds, who shot 67 here two years ago, ballooned to an 85.
• TEAM SCORES •
1. Maize, 340
2. Derby, 341
3. Hutchinson, 342
4. Sterling, 346
5. Arkansas City, 348
6. Buhler, 349 (won tiebreaker)
7. Hays, 349
8. Newton, 367
9. McPherson, 376
10. El Dorado, 398 (won tiebreaker)
11. Great Bend, 398
12. Winfield, 403
13. Campus, 405
14. St. John, 502
• MEDALISTS •
Scorecard Broke Ties
1. Caleb Hendricks, Sterling, 76
2. Nick Schissler, Sterling, 78
3. Zach Frazier, Derby, 79
4. Brock Dowler, Ark City, 82
5. Cash Hobson, Hays, 82
6. Cole Bontrager, Maize, 82
7. Payton Ruder, Hays, 83
8. Jack Lanham, Hutchinson, 83
9. Alex Rickard, Newton 83
10. Jack Howard, Hutchinson, 83
11. Ethan Rose, Buhler, 85
12. Kale Reynolds, Maize, 85
13. Quincy Stith, Derby, 86
14. Jeremy Rogers, Derby, 86
15. Tyler Stedman, Maize, 86