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Kansas Golf Associaition

Sion Audrain Wins High Plains Amateur

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15-year old is third Kansas junior golfer to claim a KGA championship in 2016

On Saturday, August 27th Sion Audrain woke up at his home in Garden City knowing he was going to go play golf at The Golf Club at Southwind, his home course.  But that day it would be a little different.  He would not be playing with his dad Shawn, or with any of his buddies.  No matter.   He would be playing in the first round of the KGA’s annual open championship dubbed the High Plains Amateur, a 36-hole championship that attracts players from several states and even foreign countries.

Even with hundreds of rounds under his belt, usually played under difficult, windy conditions at Southwind, the young Audrain knew he would have to play his best to compete against older and stronger golfers from area colleges and some of the state’s best amateurs, including his dad.  Five-time High Plains Amateur champion Sean Thayer, former champion Grant Vollertsen, and Kansas Amateur runner-up Taylor Larsen were also Southwind members in the field.  Also playing was Railer champion Tim McKinnis and 2015 KGA Mid-Am Player-of-the-Year Bradley Lane, both of whom were looking to play well in an effort to be named to the Kansas three-man team for the upcoming USGA State Team Championship.

The 15-year old Audrain shot one-over par on his opening nine holes with eight pars.  He knew that was a good score, but probably not good enough to contend for the win.   The first nine at Southwind is where sub-par rounds are built.   But keeping his focus on the more difficult second nine, Audrain made his first birdie of the day at the difficult par four #14.   He then successfully negotiated the three most difficult holes, #15 through #17, with pars to stand on the 18th tee even par for his round.  A birdie at the par four 18th hole put his scorecard in red numbers.  At the end of the day, Audrain was the only player to post a score under par.

Audrain would have a new experience that evening as he relaxed in the familiar confines of his bedroom  - dealing with the emotions and pressure of being the half-way leader of a significant regional amateur golf competition.    At least he would not have to get up too early since he would be playing in the last group at 10 o’clock.   Proud poppa, Shawn Audrain, was four strokes behind his son and would be playing in the preceding group.   Dad may have been more nervous than the son as he had two scores to deal with – his and Sion’s!

Lane was in striking distance with a two-over par 73, while McKinnis struggled with a 75.  One stroke behind Audrain was Colton Massey of Larned, who shot even par 71. Also in the final group and certainly capable of contesting for the win was Irishman Dominic Pollock, a student at the local junior college.

Audrain’s second round had a rocky start – two bogeys in the first four holes.  If it was nerves, it did not last long.  He birdied the par five 5th hole to get back to even par for the championship where held a one-stroke lead over Pollock.  But two bogeys by Pollock at the 7th and 8th holes gave Audrain a much needed three-stroke lead at the turn.

The 14th hole at Southwind has no bunkers and it has no water hazards.  It is just a steady rise to one of the highest vistas on the course and it is usually into a left to right wind.  But it is one of the most difficult par four holes in Kansas.   Audrain birdied this challenging hole for the second consecutive day to go one-under par while Pollock was now four-over par from an earlier bogey at #13.  That added up to a five-stroke lead with only four holes to play.

Even with a birdie at #15, a par five that produces more double bogeys and higher than pars or better, Pollock could not catch the junior Audrain.   Despite two bogeys over the four finishing holes, Audrain calmly kept his lead over Pollock and the rest of the challengers to post an impressive one-over par 143, two strokes better than Pollock.   Audrain’s final round two-over par 73 was good enough for the win even though nine other players had better second round scores than the new champion.

Sion Audrain is a little dynamo with a swing so limber that he could audition for Cirque du Soleil.  He keeps the ball in play and displays a very skilled short game.   At 15 years of age he has a bright future.  Not since 1991 has a Kansas junior golfer won a KGA championship, and that was Rich Morris who teamed with an adult partner to win the Kansas Four-Ball.  The KGA is not aware of any other KGA champion in an open age event younger than Sion Audrain

Flashing a winner’s smile, it is obvious where Sion Audrain wants to play college golf.   The orange rubber band and the Oklahoma State Cowboy on his hat is a dead give-away!

In the Masters Division of the High Plains Amateur, Sean Robertson of Salina won his first such title shooting  11-over par 153 for a one-stroke victory over Southwind member Eric LarsenMichael Casamento of Wichita took the Senior Division by posting a five-over par 147.  Topeka’s Fran Matthias was second at 150.