High wind, cold temps test area prep golfers

5/12/2014

Goodland's Ihrig twins lead way to title with 1-2 finish.

Goodland's Ihrig twins lead way to title with 1-2 finish.

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

If you're a high school athlete competing in spring sports in southwest Kansas, it helps to have a sense of humor.

That's because Mother Nature, or Old Man Winter if you're into the gender thing, both likely have a warped view of how to challenge the mental capacity of athletes as the spring weather goes up and down like a yo-yo.

Monday was another one of those days, challenging the 11 teams and 65 golfers in the re-scheduled Sublette Invitational golf tournament at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.

With the temperature hovering in the low 40s for the 9:40 a.m. shotgun start, combined with 30-35 mph wind with gusts up to 40, the Dunes was every bit as challenging as any golfer would want.

Only one golfer — Goodland senior Gannon Ihrig — broke 80 on the par-72 layout, and his twin brother, Gage, was second with an 81.

Tied for third, another five shots back at 86, were Garden City junior varsity player Brendon Hopkins and Chase Keller of Syracuse.

And when those players completed their rounds, the warmth of the Dunes clubhouse was where they remained.

For Hopkins, the round provided him an opportunity to earn a spot on today's Buffs varsity tournament at Liberal. For Keller, it was a chance to get another round on an all-too familiar layout as the Bulldogs and the rest of the Hi-Plains League schools return on Thursday for their league tourney, and the Class 2A schools from that group make a third trip back on Monday for the regional qualifying tournament.

All in all, every golfer, and most teams, had reasons for relief and a chance to go home and regroup for another day at the Dunes in the hopes that the weather will be warmer, and less windy.

With the Ihrig brothers leading the way, Goodland won the team title with a score of 356 (four scores), while Stanton County was runner-up at 362. Syracuse was third at 370 while Ulysses and Atwood rounded out the top five at 376 and 382.

Garden's Hopkins said he was pleased with the way his round went, considering it started for him on the 14th hole and straight into the teeth of the powerful north wind.

"It was real cold, the ball was moving around, but you just had to find a way to play through it," Hopkins said. "When it gets this cold, you have to stay focused."

Hopkins, a junior, said his driving of the ball off the tee was his strongest during the round.

"I was hitting it straight, and pretty far," Hopkins said. "Chipping was hard if you had to get the ball up in the air. Putting, it didn't seem to affect me that much."

While he was unable to make any birdies in his round, he did have two double bogeys.

"Getting a chance to play varsity tomorrow (Tuesday), I'm proud of the way I played today," Hopkins said. "It was in the back of my mind, but I was mostly trying to think about today and just do my best."

For Keller and his Syracuse teammates, the day was more than a normal challenge.

"Cold, windy, you're just trying to stay warm," Keller said of the weather impact. "It's real hard. You're just trying to keep it in the fairway, and keep your approach shots low. I had to hit a lot of knockdowns today."

For the return back to the Dunes on Thursday and then Monday, Keller said he was hopeful the weather would be better.

"Hoping for warm and no wind," he said with a smile. "If I have a choice, I'd probably have it more warm than the wind. I'll probably practice a lot, and then come back and try to do my best."

For Goodland's Gannon Ihrig, the 77 was especially satisfying considering he is in his final two weeks of high school sports before heading off to Kansas State where he will not play any sports after being a three-sport standout for the Cowboys.

"We're pretty used to the wind blowing, but not so much the cold," Ihrig said. "In these conditions, you just don't try to hit it too hard. I was able to par the first three or four holes and got off to a good start."

Ihrig had a pair of birdies, chipping in on the par-3 12th after making birdie into the wind on the par-4 6th. The hardest stretch was 13-14-15, again holes into the strong northerly wind.

"That was just the toughest part by far," Ihrig said. "I bogeyed all three of those, and it felt really good to be downwind after that."

Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.

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