INDEPENDENCE – History repeated itself on a windy and cool day that turned out to be perfect weather for golf.
Basking in this perfect weather was the Chanute High School golf team, a group that won the 4A Regionals for the second year in a row on Monday at Independence Country Club. Chanute claimed first with a team score of 409, while Anderson County (435), Towanda/Circle (446), Girard (483), Augusta (512), Independence (516), Parsons (516), Fort Scott (516) and Labette County (516) high schools rounded out the next five places, with the four-way tie for fifth.
Senior Jerlyn Kustanborter placed second out of 41 golfers at Regionals with a score of 86, and just behind her was junior Megan Kueser in third place with a 100. Senior Timmen Goracke was also in the top 10 thanks to a seventh-place finish with a score of 107. Junior Katelyn Caldwell finished Regionals with a 116 and a 16th-place finish, while junior Janessa Varndell culminated her day with a 122 and a 21st-place finish.
CHS golf coach Trevor Ewert was glad his team had gotten some experience on the Indy course prior to Regionals.
“We knew that Independence would pose a challenge as a course but had the confidence of playing it the two Monday’s prior and subsequently had a plan of attack to minimize getting into trouble areas,” Ewert said. “Our girls had been a bit tense as of late and had been feeling some pressure to do well, so Coach (Bill) Woodard and I told them to just go out and have fun today. A quick reminder that they weren’t playing against the other teams, but rather playing against the course soon followed.”
Minimizing hitting into penalty areas and trees was the primary focus, Ewert said. For the most part, they were successful at that.
Varndell and Caldwell teed off the back nine and Kueser, Goracke, and Kustanborter teed off from the front. Woodard and Ewert started on opposite sides of the course and bounced around to each golfer, walking with each for a couple holes before moving on to the next. Chanute was able to execute the plan of hitting to safe areas and playing smart, and that kind of play moved along at a very good pace.
“The biggest challenges proved to be the normal challenges at Independence Country Club: out-of-bounds, quick greens, and trees... so many trees,” Ewert said. “Our girls weren’t immune to these problems, but did an excellent job at minimizing their impact. When the dust settled, the girls were able to accomplish one of our goals from the beginning of the season: a repeat as Regional champions.”
For Chanute, this marks the first time girls golf has repeated in back-to-back years. It will also continue CHS’ State tournament appearance streak to 12 years as a team or individuals.
A part of this success was Kustanborter, who relived her performance.
“At the meet, I struggled on the front and knew that heading to play the back I needed to play well,” she said. “After working on hitting down on my irons, it really helped me attack greens and have the chances for birdies. After getting a birdie on what I think is the hardest hole, I had a lot of confidence finishing off and played the back nine a lot smoother. The course was in really good shape and it’s always a challenge. I’m happy with myself and happy for my team. It definitely gives us a level head headed into State being back-to-back Regional champions.”
Goracke also reflected on her play and the course.
“The course was very hard and there were many challenges, but I just tried to take it one shot at a time,” she said. “But overall, we played very well and the girls really worked hard to get the scores they did. The trees really messed with me a lot on the holes so I really had to think about where to land my shot and be careful, but my tee shots were good and the slight breeze usually worked in my favor and overall it was a great day of golf.”
Ewert was pleased with the way his team prepared this year. Goals were crystal clear at the beginning of the season, even while not knowing how the season would be impacted by the pandemic. Working through some adversity and coming out on top should be applauded, Ewert said.
But now it’s time to focus on State. Ewert said he will need his team’s morale to be boosted in order to play well in State and to accomplish their goal: to improve on last year’s seventh-place team finish, making the cut for Day 2 as a team.
“We will try to have some fun this week at practice to stay loose, while at the same time working on cleaning up some technique and work around the green,” he said.
The State tournament will take place next Monday and Tuesday at Emporia Municipal Golf Course.