Three tournaments, three exceptional finishes for Hays High School junior golfer Tradgon McCrae.
The latest came Monday as McCrae and the Indians hosted the Bob Blazer Invitational at Smoky Hill Country Club. It wasn’t quite the finish the junior would have wanted though.
McCrae fired a 75 for a second-place individual finish as the Indians finished just one stroke shy of a title. Garden City won the crown — paced by Sion Audrain’s individual-title 72 — with a 324. Hays High, with two golfers in the top 10, shot a 325.
“Our theme right now — the last two tournaments — has been penalty strokes are hurting us,” Indian coach Mark Watts said.
That especially was true Monday when the team and individual title ultimately was decided on the final hole. Audrain, the defending Class 6A state champion, birdied 18 to set his 72. McCrae, who had a hot start at 3-under in the early going, knocked his tee shot off a tree on 18 and it bounced in the water. The junior’s issues, though, on the back nine were more on the green.
“He had some long putts, and that last hole, he just didn’t have a good tee shot (on 18).”
McCrae ended up with a double bogey on the final green.
Senior Allen Zollinger shot an 82 to finish in ninth place, while junior Josh Norris was just outside of the top 10 with his 83. Senior Peyton Kieffer shot an 85 to round Hays High’s team score.
“We’ve just got to keep it on the course,” Watts said. “I’m not going to put it on any one person. The top four had some miscues.”
For McCrae, it was the first time the junior had not won a tournament this season. McCrae opened the season with a win at the Garden City Invitational, then captured the gold at McPherson a week ago. In the season opener, Audrain did not play for Garden City.
“He’s done such a good job for us,” Watts said of McCrae, who also is playing baseball this spring for the Indians. “He was out there with one of the best golfers in the state.”
McCrae’s finish came after the junior lost five strokes on the back nine after shooting a 35 on the front Monday. Audrain finished a 37-35 for the crown.
Topeka Seaman’s Bryce Cowan was third with a 77, Cameron Riley (78), Liberal, was fourth and Salina South’s Parker Norton was fifth at 80.
Liberal finished third in the team standings, 21 shots back of Hays High. The Indians head to Dodge City on Thursday for the third WAC scoring meet, a 3 p.m. start at Mariah Hills Golf Course. The Indians then will head to Salina on Friday.
“We’re only three tournaments in, but it’s going to get kind of busy,” Watts said. “We’re getting to the meat of our schedule.”