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Kansas Golf Associaition

Kansas Golfer Online - August 2017

From mid-July to mid-August, it was “Team Month” for KGA players of all ages.  Golf is an individual sport for most competitions, but when it is played as a member of a team it adds an extra element of pressure and excitement.   Here is a recap of those pressure-packed championships and interstate battles that make the golf season fun:


Bell & Soyez Win Historic Heart of America Four-Ball

Results -- Photo Gallery

Sporting the top seed on the Kansas City side of the match play bracket, Jeff Bell of Overland Park and Elliot Soyez of Wichita teamed up to win five four-ball matches over three days in early August at Topeka Country Club.   Their reward was to hold the impressive Heart of America Four-Ball trophy as the newly crowned champions of the 54th event played since 1961.

In 2016 the KGA partnered with the Kansas City Golf Association to present a reformatted Heart of America Four-Ball Championship.  For all of the prior championships, “The Heart” was a KCGA premier event.   But with the late summer week-long wear and tear on a golf course by a large number of Heart of America Four-Ball golfers, there became a need to lessen the number of days and the size of the field.  The solution was a match play only event played over just three days with a starting field of only 32 teams.   The KCGA qualifies and seeds 16 four-ball teams for one side of the tournament bracket while the KGA identifies and seeds its side of the bracket for another 16 teams.   The two associations alternate the responsibility for hosting and conducting the event.   Topeka Country Club, the Perry Maxwell  designed gem, proved to be a perfect venue for the aggressively played format of win and advance or lose and go home.

Bell and Soyez who live three hours apart, do not play golf with each other unless they meet somewhere to play in a tournament as teammates.    They found their compatibility last May at Reflection Ridge Golf Club in Wichita where Soyez is a member.   Their 54-hole stroke play score blew away the competition in the KGA Mid-Am Team Championship which features three different team scoring formats.    So it was no surprise that the two young mid-amateurs kept the chemistry when they secured the top seed at the KCGA’s Heart 36-hole qualifier in June.

The top seed on the KGA side of the bracket when to Kansas Four-Ball champions Conrad Roberts and Bradley Lane, both from Lawrence.

The two teams had a different opening round experience.  Bell and Soyez easily advanced with a 4&2 win over a Topeka CC-based team of Andrew Beckler, and K-State sophomore, and Brock Falley.   But Roberts and Lane were surprised by a team of Washburn University golfers who practice frequently at Topeka CC.  Chase Coble and Turner Wintz took a 3&1 victory and eliminated the KGA’s top seed much sooner than anyone would have predicted.

In the 30 matches played prior the 36-hole final match only four matches played the 18th hole, a drivable par four that can be a strategic puzzle to secure a match win.   Two of those matches involved the eventual champions.   Bell and Soyez secured two 1 up wins.   The first was against their second round opponents Andy and Matt Kelley of Kansas City, and the other was over Brent Mertz and Travis Mays, also from Kansas City, in the semi-finals.

On the KGA side of the bracket the team of TJ Vilkanskas and Brian Fehr, a pair of veteran mid-amateurs from Manhattan, had an easy time moving through the first three rounds.   They never played any further than the 15th hole to get to the semifinals.   In the third round they easily dispatched the Coble and Wintz team 6&4.

Vilkanskas and Fehr needed to play 19 holes in the fourth round to get their place in the final match.  Wichita mid-amateurs Matt Lazzo and Spencer Christian had also breezed through the prior three rounds only to fall to the Vilkanskas and Fehr magical run.

The 36-hole final match was an intriguing duel between the long-hitting “youngsters” and the skilled “veterans”.    With each team finding their stride (or trying to wake up from the 7:30 a.m. start), the opening three holes were halved with pars.   Bell and Soyez drew first blood on the fourth hole with their par against a bogey.   That set the tone for the rest of the round.   Vilkanskas and Fehr found themselves down for the rest of the day.

The second nine holes of the match were where Bell and Soyez took over and never looked back.   Four unanswered birdies at holes 12, 13, 15 and 16 gave them a 5 up lead.   The 17th hole was halved with birdies and then Fehr birdied #18 to get back to just 4 down.   Bell and Soyez played 5-under par for that stretch while Vilkanskas and Fehr were only 2-under par.

After a poolside lunch break, the four finalist headed out for the closing 18 holes.   Vilkanskas and Fehr had to hope for some help from the opponents.   They did not get any.   Every time the one team would win a hole the other team would come back with a win within two holes if not the next one.    The Bell and Soyez lead shrank briefly to 3 up after losing the 10th hole (28th of the match) to a Fehr birdie.    But Bell birdied #11 to go back to 4 up.

The match was closed out on #14 when the victors only needed a par as their opponents struggled to bogies.   5&4 was the final result but sportsmanship and camaraderie was the theme for the day.


KGA Senior Four-Ball Champions Crowned

Results -- Photo Gallery

Half of the battle to win a two-man team event is picking the right partner.  Golf skill is important and so is compatibility.   However they got together for the KGA’s Senior Four-Ball played in mid-July at Falcon Lakes Golf Course in Basehor, Greg Goode of Salina and Eric Sexton of Derby found the right formula to land at the top of the leaderboard.

Greg Goode was fresh from his Senior division win at The Railer in late June, his first KGA title.  Eric Sexton last won a KGA championship in 1982 when he was a junior golfer.   Whether it was 35 years or three weeks, winning your second KGA title is a special accomplishment.

Goode and Sexton were one of 19 strong senior four-ball teams vying for the title.   After 36 holes of competition over two days, all but two of the teams posted under-par totals.

The early lead went to Wichitans Randy Vautravers and Brian Burris.   Their 8-under par 64 was one stroke better than past champions Steve Newman and Tracy Chamberlin, also from Wichita.  Goode and Sexton posted a 5-under par 67 on day one to end up tied for fifth place with four other teams.   With nine teams at 67 or better, the title was up for grabs by the team that could go low on day two.

Goode and Sexton might have been thinking this just is not our day as they could only manage pars for the first five holes of the second round.   This format requires birdies, and several of them if you want to win.   They broke the ice with birdies at #6 and #7 to get to 7-under par for the tournament.  But then at the 9th hole their sprint to the top began.  Five consecutive birdies from the 9th to the 13th hole vaulted them to 12-under par.   Not knowing how they stood with the rest of the field and assuming some other teams had to be making birdies at the same pace, Goode and Sexton added another birdie at par five 16th hole.   When they returned their scorecard they had their own 8-under par 64 and a total of 13-under par 131.   They had the lead in the clubhouse and now they would have to wait to see how the final three groups would fair.

Vautravers and Burris faltered to a 2-under par 70 and out of contention, while veteran and multiple KGA title winner Don Kuehn of Kansas City helped his new partner Frank Booth, also of Kansas City, to a 7-under par 65 and 132 total.   The hot team of Gary Lucas and Dave Carson, both from Topeka, also shot 65 in the final round to give them a total of 11-under par 133.

Their wait ended with a KGA championship title secured and a new trophy to place next to their old one.

In the Super Senior division, Wichitans Bill Quattlebaum and Ben York finished 10-under par to take a two stroke win over the runner up team of Doug Kaup of Phillipsburg and Frank Roth of Salina.

Quincy Stith Takes His Dad for a Great Ride in the KGA Father-Son

Results -- Photo Gallery

Winston Stith
, the affable Wichita real estate agent, quickly admits that when he is playing golf with his son Quincy his best drive is behind the wheel of the golf cart.   He is Quincy’s biggest fan and encouraging coach.  For two rounds at Wichita’s Crestview Country Club, Quincy Stith had his Kansas golf break-out performance.   And what a performance it was!

KGA Father-Son Championship is intended to be a fun, but competitive, opportunity for family members to get out on the golf course and share some time pursuing a good score and great memories.   In several instances, one father played on two teams with different sons.   In another case, one man played with his father and his son on two different teams.  In all cases, the 36-hole championship was time well spent on two beautiful days in early August when Kansas was experiencing a rare mid-summer cool spell.

The young Stith will head to Montgomery, Alabama in mid-August to begin his second year at Northern Alabama, a NCAA Division 1 golf program.   Quincy was not on the radar of college golf coaches two years ago, but a timely letter to the Northern Alabama coach resulted in a spot on the team where he became its #1 player in his freshman year.

So after a summer of practice at his home course Terradyne Country Club and playing in his first Kansas Amateur in July, Quincy Stith was ready for a couple of days of tournament golf with his Dad in the 19th KGA Father-Son Championship.   The competition would be tough with a field of 60 teams, including four teams with prior KGA Father-Son titles.

One of those former champion teams was David and Jonathan May of Wichita.  David is retired and plays plenty of golf and Jonathan worked in the golf business for a few years after his Wichita State collegiate golf experience and he still has his golf skills at a high level.   The Mays took an early lead with their 7-under par 65.  The next best scores were two or three strokes back.

But late in the day Quincy Stith put an exclamation point on the opening round by eagling the 18th hole, a par five hole of reachable length.   The score for Team Stith put them in the lead with an 8-under par 64, one stroke ahead of the Mays.   The final group for round two would be the Mays and the Stiths.

Quincy started the next morning where he left off.   He birdied the opening hole and then eagled both front nine par fives and birdied the 4th and 5th hole.   So, in the first six holes of the round, Quincy was 7-under par.    That type of golf scoring would unnerve anyone, especially the ones with whom you are playing.  The Mays were 5-under par over the same six holes but losing ground.  Quincy seemed ready to make a few pars, which he did over the next eight holes.   At the par four 15th hole, Quincy made a double bogey allowing the Mays to get into a tie with the Stiths at 13-under par.

Quincy birdied the 16th hole from one foot and then parred the remaining three holes.   The Mays came to the final hole one stroke back.  Johnathan May managed to make a birdie on the 18th hole to force a sudden death playoff with the Stiths.  The four were having such a good time, why not go play a few more holes.

The opening playoff hole was the par five 14th hole.  The Mays had birdied the hole 90 minutes earlier.  Quincy missed his birdie attempt and settled for par and then stepped back to watch Jonathan miss a birdie putt of less than three feet.   So, on to the 15th hole where Quincy had made his only miscue in two days.  Two pars and on to #16.   This time Quincy made sure of the outcome with a second shot that finished in “gimme” range.  Neither May could match that, so finally off came the hats with handshakes.   There were smiles all around with a particularly large one by father Winston.

The KGA Father-Son Junior Division was very competitive this year.  The top three teams were all within 5 strokes of the champion Stith team.   Jack and Chuck Junge of Lawrence took home the Junior honors with an 11-under par 133, one stroke better than Scott and Nicklaus Mason of Kansas City.


Time for the Kansas Juniors to Shine


After five weeks of junior golf events throughout Kansas, the top players in several age groups qualify for the 36-hole stroke play Junior Section Team Championship which rewards members of the top team from a geographic area of the state, along with the top individuals.   The gathering was held in late July at Mariah Hills Golf Course in Dodge City.

The group from the South Central Section, which includes the Wichita area, took top team honors with a combined score of 906.  That was a narrow 5-stroke margin over the North Central Section.

Top individual honors went to Kameron Shaw of Salina.  He managed two rounds of two-over par 73 for a 146 total.   He had to go an extra sudden death hole with Logan Durst of Garden City who blazed in with a 4-under par 67 to also shoot 146.

The top 16 juniors based on season-long points earned in area junior competitions were invited to stay in Dodge City to play the four- round Kansas Junior Match Play Championship.  Every player had four matches with the best result being four wins and no losses, and the worst result being no wins and four losses.  After 24 matches over two days, the final undefeated player was Taylor Larsen of Garden City.   He defeated Gentry Scheve of Emporia 2&1.

Based on points earned through the end of the Match Play event, the top 8 Kansas juniors were invited to represent Kansas on the Junior Cup team for the annual shootout with the junior team from Nebraska.   Team Kansas was riding a six consecutive winning of the Virgil Parker Trophy and the 2017 team looked good for another win.

The Kansas team travelling to Kearney, Nebraska to play at Awarii Dunes Golf Club was led by Larsen with Jack Lee and Ryan Bender of Overland Park, Grant and Tate Herrenbruck of Salina, Jacob Lackey of McPherson, Sion Audrain of Garden ity and Zach Sokolosky of Wichita.

The first day of the Kansas-Nebraska Junior Cup Matches ended the way it started – tied.  With four morning matches of four-ball and four afternoon matches of foursomes, the two squads had each earned two points.   It would be the eight singles matches that would determine the winning team.  Kansas would only need to earn four more points to keep the Cup since they already had possession from last year.

Kansas took two early points with wins by Larsen (1 up) and Lee (3&1) and then in the fourth match Lackey came through with a 2&1 win for the third point of the morning.    It wasn’t long before Sokolosky, playing the anchor match, reported in with a 6&5 win for the eighth and Cup-clinching point.

Congratulations to all Kansas Juniors for another successful campaign in 2017.