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Kansas Golf Associaition

Trent Evans Wins Inaugural Konza Prairie Amateur

Results -- Photo Gallery

Trent Evans
, a K-State sophomore to-be from Edmond, Oklahoma, decided to stick around a few extra days after the spring semester had finished and play in the first Konza Prairie Trent Evans, Prairie Fire Division ChampionAmateur Championship at Colbert Hills Golf Course in Manhattan.   It was a good decision as the Wildcat golfer used his consistent play and local knowledge to pounce on his first KGA title.  His 36-hole Modified Stableford total score was a positive 4 points, 2 points better than runner-up Alex Higgs, a member of the SMU golf team from Overland Park.

The Konza Prairie Amateur was started to replace the KGA’s long-running Public Links Championship and Colbert Hills Golf Course agreed to be the event’s permanent host using the first weekend after Memorial Day.  Divisions with appropriate names like Prairie Fire, Flint and Bison are for players of any age and skill level to participant for both gross and net prizes.  The Prairie Fire division played the longest set up and it was from that group that the overall winner Evans emerged.  The Konza Prairie Amateur is different than most similar championships because it uses a Modified Stableford scoring system.  The number of strokes taken on a hole earns the player either plus or minus points.  So the player with the highest positive score is the winner.

Colbert Hills is hard enough with its rolling terrain, penal stands of fescue and quick puttingAlex Higgs, Prairie Fire Division runner-up greens, but add in an unusual north, chilly wind and the players had very difficult, wet conditions for the first round of the Konza Prairie Amateur.  Only two players (both in the Bison Division) shot under par, but some were able to tally a positive point total.

Higgs led the way with a +3 on Saturday.  His one-over par 73 round had five bogeys and four birdies.  But since birdies count two points and bogies take way only 1 point, Higgs +3 points put him in the lead at the half-way point.   Cole Dillon, a junior golfer from Manhattan, also shot 73, but since he had a double bogey (a minus 3 points) on his card and only three birdies, his Stableford total was +1.  Also at +1 was TJ Vilkanskas who shot two-over par 74.  Two other players shot 74, but Stableford points balanced at zero for Bradley Lane and Conrad Roberts, both from Lawrence.   Eventual winner Evans took the sting out of five bogeys with two birdies for a round of three-over par 75 but a Stableford score of only -1, just 4 points behind Higgs.

The Sunday final round was another unique day for the “big” golf course set in the heart of the Flint Hills.  Calm and sunny conditions lightened the spirits as scoring conditions improved.  But through the first nine holes, none of the three players in the final group had made a birdie.  In fact, Higgs, Vilkanskas and Dillon each had several bogeys for point deductions.  In front of them Evans had one birdie and one bogey for a net gain of one point and putting himself in a tie for the lead with Higgs.

Evans was the only player to tour the back nine under par.  His two birdies and 7 pars gave him another 4 huge points to finish at +5.  But he had to wait for the leaders in the next and final groTom Bachelor - Flint Division Championup to finish.

What Evans did not know was that Higgs was having an up and down day.  He made no birdies on the front nine and three bogeys had reduced his overall Stableford points to zero.  Then at #10 as a result of a failed effort to reach the par five green in two strokes and a missed bogey putt, Higgs suffered a 3 point deduction.    But as this format can do, Higgs made a huge rebound with his drive on #13.  The tees had been moved up to 310 yards.  Higgs drive landed on the green and rolled down a slope to within inches of the hole.  His easy eagle was worth 5 points putting him tied with Evans through 13 holes.

Thinking that he only needed to beat the two players in the final group, Higgs continued to play for birdies while watching Dillon and Vilkanskas struggle.  Ultimately, it was a bogey at #15 and #18 that made the two point difference that gave Evans the margin of victory.

In the Flint Division, it was a battle between Don Kuehn, Flint Division runner-uptwo senior veterans, Tom Bachelor and Don Kuehn.  The 2014 Kansas Senior Amateur champion Kuehn was very pleased with his even par 72 round, but then had to scratch his head to figure out how Bachelor could shoot a one-over par 73 and be tied with him at +3 Stableford points.  The answer was that Bachelor made four birdies to overcome his five bogeys, while Kuehn had only three birdies.  Two points for a birdie and only a one point deduction for a bogey makes birdies more valuable in the end.

Bachelor continued his good play on Sunday with a two-over par 74 and a break-even day of Stableford points for a final tally of +3 points.  Kuehn, on the other hand, struggled with the putter in route to five consecutive bogeys and a dwindling Steve Newman - Bison Division Championpoint total ultimately reaching -6 points, putting Bachelor in the winner’s position for the Flint Division.

The Bison Division was another two-way battle between newcomer Tim McKinnis, a reinstated amateur from Lyons, Kansas and veteran multi-winner Steve Newman of Wichita.    McKinnis had the best round of the day in adverse conditions when he shot a four-under par 68 with five consecutive birdies to start the round and seven birdies total for the day.  His Stableford points grew to +11.  Newman did it the other way on Saturday.  He started with two birdies but a double bogey and two bogies put him 9 points behind McKinnis after only the front nine.  But a strong finish with birdies on the last four holes gave Newman a +7 total, only four points back.

Sunday was Newman’s day.  He posted his own four-under par 68 with five birdies while McKinnis could not keep hisTim McKinnis - Bison Division runner-up hot pace.  Ultimately, Newman finished with a comfortable margin of 8 points, +16 versus +8, and claiming another of a growing number of KGA senior titles.

The 2nd Konza Prairie Amateur Championship will be June 4-5, 2016 at Colbert Hills Golf Course again using the Modified Stableford scoring format.