Nothing has Kapaun Mount Carmel sophomore Sam Stevens more nervous than his first drive of the day.
He likes to think it is a portent of how his round will go. Stevens figured he was in store for a good day when he looked up at his first drive Wednesday at Wichita State’s Braeburn golf course in the City League championships.
“If you hit it off-line at Braeburn, you’re probably behind a tree and chipping out, so when I saw it going down the fairway it was a deep sigh of relief,” Stevens said. “When you go up there and stripe one down the middle like that, it gives you confidence for the rest of the round.”
Stevens used three birdies on the front-nine to carry him through Wednesday, as he finished with a 1-over 71 to win individual medalist honors. It was Stevens’ fifth victory on the season.
Kapaun won its fifth consecutive City League title with its team score of 300, edging Bishop Carroll by two strokes. The Crusaders won despite having Jared Burns’ round of 74 disqualified due to a misunderstanding that led Burns to sign his card with an incorrect score.
“It was a learning experience for everybody,” Kapaun coach Dan Phillips said. “Hopefully we can use this as a drive to play well at regionals and state.”
A sticky-hot day paired with Braeburn’s unforgiving tree lines kept scores relatively in check. Carroll’s Joey Koester was a rarity on the day, relying on a steady driver to post his best score of the season, a 72, to finish in a tie for second with Kapaun’s Matthew Gilbaugh.
“I ended on a birdie, so that always feel good,” Koester said. “I was hitting my driver pretty straight and getting up and down pretty easily. It felt good today.”
But no one could score like Stevens. He made the turn at 1-under and was poised to shoot under par until he missed the green and three-putted the par-3 17th to take a double-bogey.
When Stevens made what he felt like was a mistake, he became visibly agitated. But what separates him from other golfers, Phillips will tell you, is his ability to erase the mistake in his mind before his next shot.
“What he’s doing this season, as a sophomore, is just phenomenal,” Phillips said. “It’s his competitive drive that gets him through those situations. He’s experienced enough to be able to refocus and get himself back into places to shoot those low scores.”
There was nothing to get upset about after the round. Stevens was all grins.
“The other City League matches are fun to win, but this, this was the big one,” he said. “To get this one is pretty special. It’s definitely something I’ll always remember.”
City League Championship
Team scores—Kapaun 300, Carroll 302, Heights 317, East 339, Northwest 342, North 343, Southeast 382.
Individuals—1. Stevens, Kapaun, 71; T2. Gilbaugh, Kapaun, 72; T2. Koester, Carroll, 72; 4. Auer, Kapaun, 73; T5. Pitcher, Heights, 74; T5. Iseman, Carroll, 74; T7. Hoefling, Carroll, 78; T7. Leichner, Heights, 78; T7. Sander, Carroll, 78; T7. Taylor, North, 78; T11. Chadd, Carroll, 79; T11. Haight, Heights, 79; T11. Heiman, East, 79.