HAYS — Hillsboro senior Daniel Kunantaev was irked with his finish at the Class 3A golf tournament in 2009. Finishing 19th was disappointing for Kunantaev, who had finished third and fourth the previous two seasons.
"Last year was a struggle," he said."... I really had a slump my junior season and really didn't play anywhere close to where I expected. And then I really dedicated myself in the offseason to getting a lot better and improving all around in all areas of my game. It paid off."
That it did. Kunantaev shot a 75 to earn individual medalist honors Monday at Hays' Smoky Hill Country Club. Wichita Collegiate won its fifth straight title, shooting a 322.
"It hasn't quite set in yet," said Kunantaev, who will play at Purdue. "But it's what I've been practicing for. It's awesome."
It wasn't an easy day on the par 71 course, though, as nearly 30 golfers shot over 100. Already a tough course because of its rough and number of trees close to the fairway, the strong wind made it even more difficult.
"This was probably the windiest state championship tournament I remember," Collegiate coach Kevin Reed said.
"You had to keep the ball in play on this course," Hillsboro coach Scott O'Hare said. "You had to understand your club selection with this wind, and you had to make some shots. Conditions were tough, so it was who was able to make the shots."
For Kunantaev, who was at 4-under through the first six holes, hitting into the wind caused problems.
"I would hit the driver real well downwind, but into the wind, I would struggle," he said."... I hit a couple drops that put me behind trees in the rough, and then consequently I made some bogeys and wasn't able to make the par putt."
As for Collegiate, the Spartans dominated in the team race, shooting 26 shots better than second-place Kansas City Christian and 34 shots better than third-place Lakin.
Senior Ben Hatfield had a shot at winning and was at 3 over when he was told he was leading on No. 16.
And then trouble hit.
"At 17, I was 75 yards out and I chunked my second shot and ended up three-putting for a double and then lipped out for birdie on 18 to send myself into a playoff," Hatfield said.
In a three-person playoff for second, Hatfield finished third with a 76.
"That double on 17, you live and you learn," he said. "It's disappointing, but a third-place finish isn't that bad, either."
Collegiate sophomore Harrison Morris shot a 79 and finished seventh after losing in a two-player playoff. Senior Tyler Vincent finished ninth with an 80. While he lost his playoff, he finished his round well with an eagle on 17 and a birdie on 18.
"We've been a good team all year with a number of guys contributing," Reed said. "That's what got us through is we had more depth."
Sterling's Michael Gellerman, who won the 2009 title, finished fifth. Halstead's Joey Krueger shot an 85 to tie for 14th, while teammate Brandon Gamache tied with Wichita Collegiate's Andrew Munds for 18th after shooting 87s.