A conversation between Trinity Academy boys golf coach Derrek Ziesch and his team prior to Monday’s Class 4A regional tournament was headed down a challenging path.
So Ziesch decided to unleash his best motivational ploy.
“I just told the guys we’re blessed that it’s on our home course,” Ziesch said, referring to Tallgrass Country Club. “I said, ‘You guys are going to win.’ They were like, ‘Coach, we’re not the best team.’
“I said, ‘OK, I went and got rooms (for the state tournament) two weeks ago. If you guys don’t believe it, it won’t happen.’ ”
Apparently, the Knights got the message. Trinity, with four golfers finishing in the top 10, posted a 318 team score and won the regional by five shots over Andover Central.
Both teams earned berths in next Monday’s 4A tournament at Wamego Country Club. Rose Hill junior Peyton Austin claimed the top individual spot, firing a 1-over-par 72 .
Competing against the likes of Maize South, a perennially strong team that dropped from 5A to 4A this season, and league champions Andale and Augusta, Trinity responded with five golfers shooting 84 or better. Sophomore Sam Majors finished third individually, edging teammate Caden Vanlandingham in a playoff after both shot 77s.
Junior Nick Epperson, playing his first season of varsity, shot 82 and finished eighth, defeating senior teammate Jonathan Loon in a playoff.
“Coach knew that we’re a good team and we just had to believe it,” Majors said. “We knew going into this it was such a hard regional, and it was going to be tough today. We just went out and grinded it out.”
Andover Central, with five returnees from a team that finished seventh in 4A last spring, earned a return trip to state. Sophomore Peyton Wilson led the Jaguars with a 75, while freshman Cooper Schultz and sophomore Keegan Ellington were also in the top 10 after carding 81s.
After going to state with his team the last two seasons, Austin will return as an individual qualifier for the Rockets after flirting with an under-par round. He double-bogeyed the 18th to finish 1 over, but was pleased with the performance that got him to that point.
Austin saved a par from tall grass behind the par-4 12th green, then reeled off consecutive birdies on Nos. 14-16.
“I definitely think that up and down gave me the momentum,” said Austin, who has scored in the 70s in every competitive round this spring. “That was the best up and down I’ve ever had.
“I felt like it was going to be a tough race out there. That golf course doesn’t allow you to attack. You have to play smart and keep the ball in play.”
Austin, playing in a group with Vanlandingham, Maize South’s Wells Padgett and Augusta’s Jake Becker, saw the conditions challenge each player. Padgett, who won the 5A individual title last year, matched his season-high score with a 79. Becker posted a season-high 86.
Both qualified individually for state, but Padgett informed Collegiate coach Kevin Reed, the tournament director, that he will forego next week’s tournament to play in a U.S. Open local qualifier Wednesday at Wichita Country Club, ending his high school career.
The season will continue for Trinity, which had waited more than a week to post a score after inclement weather cancelled the Central Plains League tournament.
“This definitely gave us a confidence boost,” Vanlandingham said. “Now we can just let loose, have fun and hopefully put down a good score Monday.”
At Tallgrass (Par 71)
Teams: Trinity Academy 318, Andover Central 323, Maize South 339, Andale 348, Augusta 367, Rose Hill 380, El Dorado 385, Collegiate 391, Circle 400.
Individuals: 1. Peyton Austin, Rose Hill, 72; 2. Peyton Wilson, Andover Central, 75; 3. Sam Majors, Trinity, 77; 4. Caden Vanlandingham, Trinity, 77; 5. Wells Padgett, Maize South, 79; 6. Cooper Schultz, Andover Central, 81; 7. Keegan Ellington, Andover Central, 81; 8. Nick Epperson, Trinity, 82; 9. Jonathan Loon, Trinity, 82; 10. Cale Bontrager, Maize South, 83.
Other qualifiers: 11. Zach Eck, Andale, 83; 13. Jake Becker, Augusta, 86. 15. (tie) Nick Carney, Andale; Adam Kasitz, Maize South; Eli Graham, Collegiate, 87.