The rain finally held off on Wednesday at McPherson’s Turkey Creek Golf Course, but there was still a perfect storm for the Buhler Crusaders.
Behind state champion Mac McNish and his near-perfect round of 3-under-par 67, the Crusaders ran away and hid from the field for a 17-stroke victory, throttling The Creek for a blistering 293.
It was the first-ever boys state championship for Buhler, whose coach Brennan Torgerson has led the Crusader girls to a state title so he now has the rare double.
McNish, a senior, was the story of the day. He went out in 2-under-par 33 and wavered only once on the inward half when he hit a pull-hook into the water on No. 17 for his only bogey of the day, making a quality putt to avoid the double-bogey. He finished his best-ever competitive round in style by making a birdie putt on No. 18.
McNish was in the clubhouse nearly 3 hours before the final golfers made their way off the course, but there was little doubt his surreal round would hold up.
“It helps win you hit nine greens (in regulation) on the front (nine),” McNish said. “I putted really well on the back.”
McNish birdied holes 6 and 8 on the front nine, with No. 6 being one of the toughest holes on the side. His back-nine tweets came on another par-3, No. 15, then of course the par-5 finishing hole.
McNish, who admits to being somewhat short off the tee, compensated with his pure ball-striking and putting.
“The pins weren’t that hard,” said McNish, who also was helped by the fact the tournament employed the ball-in-hand rule because the course was so wet. “I really thought they would tuck them. They put a lot of them in the middle. After the first five or six holes, I really thought I could go 3- or 4-under. When I finally got a birdie on No. 6, I thought I could shoot under, like a 66 or 67.”
McNish’s best tournament score this year had been a 73 at Hesston, but the flat stick finally became his friend on this day after betraying him to the point that he opted for a late change.
“I made putts today,” he said. “At Hesston, I hit like 15 greens and had 34 putts. I got a new putter a couple of weeks ago before league. I struggled at league, but I putted really well today.”
Buhler also received 75s from Dylan Schmitt and Connor Ridder, while Ryan Anderson shot a 76. The 67 and two 75s were posted very early, which took a lot of the suspense out of the proceedings.
Pre-tournament favorite Topeka Hayden was 8 strokes back after the first-nine scores were turned in, but faded during the latter part of the day to finish in sixth place.
It proved to be a great day for AVCTL Division III as after league member Buhler, Rose Hill won a tiebreaker for second place with 310, with Wamego gaining the other plaque. Surprising Iola was fourth with 314.
Kansas City Piper’s Eric Pahls charged on the back nine with a 33 to give him an even-par 70 for the runner-up medal.
McPherson had two players in the tournament competing as individual medalists. CJ Steiner, who was in the first group of the day, bounced back from a front-nine 45 to shoot 39 on the back for an 84. Kaden Warren shot a 93, though he also improved on his back nine by five shots.
Still, the day belonged to Buhler. The Crusaders played here during the McPherson Invitational and that course knowledge certainly didn’t hurt. But Torgerson knew his team could make a run since it had players from top to bottom all capable of breaking 80, while other teams had only two or three players.
“I’ve said all year that we’re deep,” said Torgerson, a Lindsborg native. "All six of our guys have posted a 78 at one time this year. I felt like a 300 to 310 would get it done. I felt like we were capable of that. We shot 300 this year once and they were disappointed they didn’t break it. What a way to break it, wait until the state tournament. When you’ve got guys going around the course under par or hovering around even, it gives the rest of your guys confidence. I’m just so proud of them. They’ve had this in them and I thought when the year started we had a chance.”
• TEAM SCORES •
1. Buhler, 293
2. Rose Hill, 310-85
3. Wamego, 310-86
4. Iola, 314
5. Hays, 324
6. Topeka Hayden, 324
7. DeSoto, 326
8. Wichita Trinity, 328
9. Chanute, 332-90
10. Labette County, 332-94
11. Ottawa, 339
12. Thomas More Prep, 347
• TOP 10 •
1. McNish, Buhler, 67
2. Pahls, Kansas City Piper, 70
3. Vacca, Coffeyville, 71
4. Julo, Atchison, 71
5. Macha, Iola, 71
6. Ruder, Hays, 72
7. Antonetti, Fort Scott, 73
8. Carney, Andale, 74
9. Elder, Wamego, 74
10. Waters, Wamego, 75