Sutton Leads Kennedy to District Golf Title
By KJ Pilcher, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Low score wins in golf, but Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Davis Sutton was more pleased with a high number.
The junior golfer took his two-digit accomplishment in stride, while sharing a little more satisfaction with the 299-stroke performance by the Cougars.
Sutton claimed medalist honors with a 73, helping Kennedy to an Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 4A district title and seventh straight state meet berth Monday at Elmcrest Country Club. The Cougars were 11 strokes better than runner-up Cedar Rapids Washington, advancing to the 4A state meet Friday and Saturday at Hunters Ridge Golf Course in Marion.
First as an individual was not as crucial as first as a team, especially when they are tracking a state title to improve last year's state runner-up finish.
"It's not important to me, but it's always nice to finish first out of a group," Sutton said. "If we shoot 299 at state, we're going to be right there and I know that."
Kennedy Coach Mark Wilden was dialed in to his top golfer's attitude after the 3-over performance, assuming Sutton was happy with the final result but not satisfied. The team first mentality is won shared by Conner Koberg, who came in at 74, and Cole Murdock and Seth Nutt, who each added a 76 for the Cougars.
"Every one of these guys is very unselfish," Wilden said. "As long as the team won they're happy."
Depth and balance has been a staple of the Kennedy program. It was on display, shooting three strokes better than last year's district at Elmcrest. All six Cougars would have scored on all but two other teams in the field. They put in the work leading up to this meet.
"The kids were prepared," Wilden said. "They know this golf course demands a lot of perfection on the greens."
Sutton overcame a slow start, falling to 2-over through five holes. He shot even par to the turn. Sutton became consistent off the tee and on fast and challenging greens.
"I didn't drive the ball great at the start, but I found it. I hit a lot of fairways and that's key out here because it is so tight," Sutton said of the course. "I didn't putt great at the start either, but I found a rhythm with the putter and started making some crucial putts, including one birdie putt."
The birdie came at a pivotal point. Sutton said he plays a round by separating it into two nine-hole segments. At the turn, he tries to calm down and restart no matter how he has performed and focus on doing his best on the next nine. Sutton birdied the par-3 10th hole.
"It was nice," Sutton said. "That's one of the tougher holes out here."
Koberg and Nutt had an advantage when it came to tallying birdies. Each had two on the front, playing it at even par 35. Both birdied the par-5 No. 2 hole. Koberg notched his second on the par-3 No.5, and Nutt on the par-4 No. 4 hole.
Koberg tied for the second-lowest score of the round. Even though the greens gave some fits, but played to the Cougars' strengths.
"The course was pure," Koberg said. "It is awesome.
"I haven't seen greens this fast in a while, so the course was playing really pure and the greens were rolling true."
Kennedy received a bit of a wakeup call, dropping its regular-season finale to Washington last week. They gained a little perspective from that second-place finish at Hunters Ridge.
"We knew we couldn't just come here and, if we were to go to state, we had to really try and give it our best shot which is what happened," Koberg said. "We're going to state again. It is always nice."
The Warriors' goal was to shoot 310, hoping it would be enough, according to head coach Dennis Goettel. Mission accomplished. Washington will make its first state appearance since co-head coach Chris James was a senior in 2003.
"These are a great bunch of kids," Goettel said. "They worked so hard to achieve this."
Goettel was weary during the round, following the golfers whenever they scored above par. Dominic Rodriguez and Jake Patterson led the Warriors with 76. Frank Lindwall added 78 and Max Claassen. Goettel said Rodriguez has been a leader for the team, posting the Warriors' lowest score in 11 of 13 meets, but each player has made a big impact during the season.
"Dominic has been a rock. He's our anchor," Goettel said. "It seems they have gotten better. The progress has been fun to watch. It has been a new player each time that has bailed us out."
The Warriors have made strides the entire season and it paid dividends. They are playing the best now. Goettel noticed improvement as averages dropped each time he calculated them. It creates excitement for the biggest meet of the season.
"We continue to make progress," Goettel said. "We continued to climb up that ladder."
Cedar Rapids Xavier grabbed the third and final state berth, returning for the second straight year. The Saints came in at 313, edging Ottumwa by four. John Ingwersen led Xavier with 76. John Winker shot 77 and Jordan Even had 78 for the Saints, who had two others shoot 82.