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Kansas Golf Associaition

“West is Best” This Year!

Results -- Photo Gallery

A motivated team of eight mid-amateurs from the western side of Kansas came to Prairie Dunes Country Club last week as a team united with the mission to take back the Kanza Players Cup. For the fifth time this intra-state rivalry was played in a series of team and individual matches to determine mid-amateur bragging rights in Kansas.  The East team had built a 3-1 advantage in this young annual competition.

Everyone was excited to play the Kanza Players Cup at Prairie Dunes, generally regarded as our state’s premium venue.  What might seem to give the West team a slight advantage was the fact that three of its eight members are national members of the Prairie Dunes.  Cool and at times wet conditions, along with a very challenging set-up, seemed to balance the scales as only 2 points were eventually earned by those national members.

The competition began with four matches played using the four-ball format that ended with two points for each team.  Two matches were halved, splitting the point, and two matches resulted in a 1 up advantage.  In what might be called an upset, William Gantz (Perry) and Gary Lucas (Topeka) edged out the strong team of Zac Burton (Manhattan) and TJ Vilkanskas (Manhattan), both former Prairie Dunes club champions.

After a quick break the teams resumed play in the afternoon with four matches using the foursomes format.  The alternate shot approach is the least popular for most golfers as it is difficult to get into a rhythm and pars are difficult to make.  Three opening pars gave the West pair of Jack Courington (Wichita) and Spencer Christian (Wichita) a 3 up lead over Jeff Bell (Lenexa) and Michael Winkler (Overland Park) that they never relinquished to earn a match point.  Right behind them Pete Krsnich (Wichita) and Tyler Chapman (Wichita) fought back from a two hole deficit to square their match at the fifth hole then build a 2 up lead after the par three #10 hole.   They closed out Bradley Lane (Lawrence) and Michael Rack (Lawrence) on the 17th hole with a par and a 3&1 win.

Down 4 points to 2 points, the East team relied on the Gantz/Lucas team to secure another point by winning their match 1 up over Andrew King (Junction City) and Grant Vollertsen (Garden City), who is another one of those Prairie Dunes national members.   This was the most dramatic match of the afternoon.  Gantz and Lucas had built a 3 up advantage through 12 holes only to see that evaporate with a King/Vollertsen par at #13, and birdies at #15 and #17.   With their teammates watching, Will Gantz played a pressure-filled wedge approach to the 18th green leaving his partner Lucas with a 12 foot birdie putt.  Vollertsen had a similar approach shot that found its way to the greenside bunker where a par save was not possible.

Earlier Kit Grove (Lawrence) and Conrad Roberts (Lawrence) had secured another point for the East team in a 3&2 win over Burton and Vilkanskas.

The first day ended right where it had started in a tie.  Both teams secured 4 points through the team play formats of the first two rounds.   The eight singles matches would determine the winner.  The West team would have to earn at least 4.5 points from the singles matches in order to win the trophy.  The East team had held the trophy each of the last two years and an outright win would be needed to transfer its possession.

On the second day, with a rain storm lurking, the singles matches progressed through the front nine.  Three matches had lopsided leads favoring the West team as they headed to the difficult back nine.  As the light rain set in Grant Vollertsen shut out Jeff Bell 6&4 and TJ Vilkanskas won out over Gary Lucas 6&5, giving the West team two big points toward their goal of 4.5 points needed for the win.

The East team fought back to even the score with wins by Will Gantz, 2&1 over Andrew King, and Bradley Lane, 1 up over Spencer Christian.

Jack Courington built a 2 up advantage through 15 holes and held on for a 1 up win over Kit Grove for an important 7th point for team West.  Pete Krsnich then moved the scales heavily in favor of the West team by taking a 3&2 win over Michael Winkler for their 8th point.   Conrad Roberts won out over Zac Burton, 2&1 leaving one match on the golf course with a West lead of 8 points to 7 points.

The final point was the match between Michael Rack and Tyler Chapman.  Through 15 holes Chapman had built a 2 up lead.  Rack would need to win each of the last three holes in order to get team East to 8 points, a team tie on points but good enough to retain the trophy.  A par by Rack on the difficult 16th hole gave the East team hope.  But a halving par on #17 was enough to seal the victory for the West team.  Chapman’s birdie on #18 was merely icing on the cake for his 2 up win.  The East team had tallied 5 points in the singles matches to give them 9 points total.

Their rain-soaked gear did not dampen the spirit of the players.  A quick hot meal and a time for friendly banter, including recognition to Will Gantz for being the only player to win all three of his match points, was followed by distribution of the individual trophies and a victorious team photo.   Everyone was grateful for the opportunity to compete with and against friends and appreciative of the host venue and staff.