Oberlin claims first state golf title

By BRETT MARSHALL

Special to The HDN

DODGE CITY -- On the closing holes at Mariah Hills Golf Course on Monday during the Class 2A boys state golf tournament, Oberlin's Kade Brown, the defending champion, had his sights on a repeat title.

He was just 1-over-par with three holes left and although he didn't know it at the time, was leading Elkhart's Hunter Burnett by three shots.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Brown, who is headed to Creighton University next year, finished double-bogey, bogey, bogey, and a 5-over-par 76, and was edged by Burnett by one shot for medalist honors. Brown won a playoff for second against Jared Oelke of Ellinwood on the first hole of sudden death.

The disappointment of not repeating as individual champion was quickly erased minutes later when the final team scores were tabulated. Brown, his teammates, and his new coach -- his mom, Carol -- all watched as the 339 score for the Red Devils was three shots in front of runner-up Sterling. Ellis was third with a 343.

"It's been an incredible year for these kids," coach Brown said. "I've been with these boys over the years, driving them to junior tournaments, so I know most of them. I had some of them in kindergarten, so I think there's been a sense of familiarity for all of us."

The team title was the first in school history for the golf program, with the previous best coming in 1983 when the Devils finished second behind Ellis at Hesston Golf Course.

Brown was hired as the Devils coach after longtime Oberlin coach Richard Alberg retired at the end of the 2012 season after more than 30 years.

"The job came open, and I just thought it might be a good opportunity to see the boys play more," coach Brown said. "They're a really good group of boys. I really haven't had any problems with them. They've worked very hard to get here."

Coach Brown said her veteran team of four seniors and two underclassmen, including her youngest son, freshman Kelly, was focused on making a run at the state title.

"We looked at regional scores and felt like we would be in the running," coach Brown said. "But I wouldn't have guessed we'd win with the score we had. I had penciled in something like 321 that it might take to place. I was really surprised at how tough it played."

In addition to Kade Brown's 76, the Red Devils got an 82 from the younger Brown, which tied him for seventh, but then saw him finish 11th after a playoff. Then it was all the way to a 90 by Zach Mayand a 91 by Tyler Bruggerman to round out the Devils' scoring. Ryan May posted a 95 and Logan Berry a 96 for the non-counting scores.

Ellis coach Matt Carroll, wasn't surprised by the down-to-the-wire battle with Oberlin and Sterling.

Skyler Tebo led the way with a 78 and finished fourth after winning a three-way playoff from Sterling's Brogan Jones and Meade's Austin Jansonius.

Tyler Walters finished seventh by winning that crowded 6-man playoff at 82. Gage Younger was next for the Railroaders with an 87, followed by Tanner Fischer's 96. The non-counting scores were Josh Tway and Ryan Downing with 101s.

"We beat Oberlin, they beat us during the season. We knew it would be a tight race," Carroll said of the battle of the teams that came out of the same regional a week ago. "I'm surprised at the high scores. I would not have expected that. I really felt we'd have to shoot 325 to have a chance to win. I gave the kids a number. But the greens were a little tougher, perhaps a little quicker than they were yesterday (Sunday practice round)."

Carroll said he knew this might be the Railers' best chance to claim their first state title since that 1983 win over Oberlin.

"This was the year we knew we'd have our best chance," said Carroll, who watched his team improve from fifth a year ago.

"We just struggled at times and couldn't put a finish to the round. I feel like, despite the struggle, we were fortunate to finish third and feel really good about taking home a team trophy."