As Bishop Carroll’s boys golf coach, Mark Berger has experienced as much success against Kapaun Mount Carmel’s perennially strong program as anyone.
Much of that is by virtue of opportunity. The crosstown City League rivals frequently compete against each other because of the league’s regular-season structure and in the postseason as Class 5A teams.
That also means no team has given Berger more headaches than Kapaun. The Crusaders have won all 10 City League titles and five 5A championships during the time Berger has led Carroll.
For a few hours Saturday, those rivals will become teammates. Carroll and Kapaun will battle St. James Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas in the newly created Catholic Cup match-play competition.
“As much as we love competing against them, we also get a little tired of getting beat,” Berger said of Kapaun. “It’s neat to be able to come together and compete along with them. I don’t know if my guys have really grasped that yet.”
After two years of discussions, Wichita’s two Catholic schools and the two 5A Catholic schools from Johnson County will play a 27-hole, Ryder Cup-style event much different than the 18-hole invitationals and duals that dominate the rest of the schedule.
The competition will begin at 9 a.m. at Emporia Municipal Golf Course, a midway point for the teams and the site of last year’s 5A boys tournament. All four finished in the top six at state, with Aquinas edging Kapaun by eight shots for the title.
“You play against them in the state tournament and that’s kind of a blur,” Kapaun coach Dan Harrison said. “I’m glad we’re able to slow it down a little bit at this point of the season.
“When you share an experience like this, often you’ll bump into them down the road and be able to say, ‘Yeah, I played in that with this guy,’ or people may even become lifelong friends. … We’re going to compete like heck, but we see it as a great venue for sportsmanship.”
The dynamics of the competition are similar for both sides. While St. James wasn’t established until 2005, the Lenexa school has quickly become one of Aquinas’ main rivals in the Kansas City area. Aquinas, meanwhile, has nearly equaled Kapaun’s level of success at the state level in the last decade, winning four boys golf titles.
“That was kind of the idea for this (Catholic Cup),” Aquinas coach Ryan Best said. “It was, ‘Let’s take a break from the normal routine and try something different.’ We play this game for fun. There will be plenty of other times to beat up on each other.”
Best took the lead role in putting together the format for Saturday’s competition. It will begin with nine-hole fourball matches in which six Carroll and Kapaun duos will compete against Aquinas and St. James in one-point matches.
Best’s plan for the second nine holes is three alternate-shot matches in which two players from each school will pair together in a 4-on-4 format. For example, if two players from one school combine for a par and their partner school makes bogey, the side will count the par. The winning side for each match will receive two points.
After a lunch break, the competition will conclude with Carroll and Kapaun duos competing against Aquinas and St. James using the Stableford scoring system. Golfers will receive two points for a par, five for birdie, 10 for eagle and 20 for double eagle.
With 18 available points, traveling trophies will be awarded to the side that scores 10 or more.
“We’re trying to develop good, healthy competition but also trying to build that camaraderie between the schools,” Berger said. “It’ll be a little different competing with Kapaun rather than against them. But it’s just a nice little break from the norm.”