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Kansas Golf Associaition

Kansas Juniors Retain Virgil Parker Trophy with Last Hole Heroics

For 31 years the Kansas-Nebraska Junior Cup Matches have been conducted to promote goodwill and sportsmanship for junior boy golfers.  But in the 30 prior contests, the level of suspense and excitement never came close to what happened in early August at Flint Hill National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas.

The two 8-man squads face off in a series of matches played with four-ball, foursomes and singles formats for a total of 16 points at stake.  Since Kansas had won last year, Nebraska would need to earn at least 8.5 points to take possession of the symbolic prize, the Virgil Parker Trophy (named after the late Nebraska Golf Association Executive Director).

Team Kansas has dominated this series in recent years having won five straight beginning in 2011.  The 2016 team looked unbeatable.  Of the eight players there was the current Kansas Amateur champion and runner-up, the current Konza Prairie Amateur champion and runner-up, and the runner-up from the 2017 Junior Section Team Championship.    But Captain Rusty Hilst knew that Nebraska would bring a strong team to Kansas, commenting “we will have to play our best to retain the Cup.”

The first round morning four-ball matches were over in the blink of an eye.  Of the four matches, only one reached the 18th green and it ended in a split point for the halved match.  Kansas posted two posted two lopsided wins of 8&7 and 7&6, while Nebraska got its one full point by a 6&4 margin.   Kansas appeared to be on its way to another team victory with the early 2.5 to 1.5 lead.

Hilst kept the teams paired the same for the afternoon foursomes matches but some of the opponents were shuffled.   Who knows how or why, but the alternate shot matches were a total sweep for Team Nebraska.  Those 4 points gave Nebraska an easy path to victory.  With half of the points awarded, Nebraska had a 5.5 to 3.5 advantage.   Kansas would need to win 5.5 of the 8 points available in the singles matches to be played the next morning in order to keep the string alive.

Inspired by their foursomes sweep, Nebraska bolted to leads in most of the singles matches.  At one point with all matches playing the challenging back nine at Flint Hills National GC, Nebraska was up in 6 of the 8 matches.     Kansas Amateur Champion Blake Allen dropped his point in a 3&2 loss, meaning Kansas would need to earn 5.5 points of the 7 points still on the course.

Well, hold on!

Bradley Beykrich took care of business early with a 7&6 victory so he could go cheer on his six remaining teammates.   Taylor Larsen, the Kansas Amateur runner-up, added another point with a 2&1 win.  Then Grant Herrenbruck, Cole Gritton and Parker Beal all staged comebacks to force their matches to the 18th hole where each garnered a halve, good for one-half point each or another 1.5 points.   About that time, Christian Ghilardi posted an important 5&3 win.

So, that was a big comeback - 4.5 points to Kansas in those six matches.   With only one match remaining, the point tally was Nebraska 8, Kansas 7.  All Nebraska needed was a halved match and the Virgil Parker Trophy would be heading back to Nebraska after a five year absence.

Matt Percy was put in the unlikely roll of potential Kansas hero.  The 18-year old from Ottawa, Kansas plays at Allen County Country Club and his best prior competitive finish was runner-up at the July KJGA Junior Section Team Championship at Emporia Municipal Golf Course.   He had finished 29th at the Kansas Junior Amateur in June.

Through 17 holes Percy held a slim 1 up lead over his Nebraska opponent.   The 18th hole at Flint Hills National is one of the most difficult closing holes in Kansas.  It’s a par five requiring at least three good shots just to make a par.  Tall trees, thick vegetation, native grasses and a water hazard that borders the entire left side of the hole and then crosses in front of the green are the obstacles to conquer.  By the time the two players left standing reached the putting surface, Nebraska had a clear advantage with a short putt remaining for par.  Percy however had a 15-foot putt for his par.   If he makes it, he earns a full point to get Kansas to 8 points.  If he misses and Nebraska not likely to also miss from such short range, the final point would be split giving Nebraska the 8.5 overall points needed for the team win.

With all of players, volunteers, staff and even some club members looking on, Matt Percy made a putt he will never forget – into the hole for a match winning par!  Kansas tallied its 8th point.

Congratulations to Team Kansas and Captain Hilst on a great effort and representation at Flint Hills National Golf Club.  That’s six in a row!