'The Fort' hosts first state tournament
By NICK McQUEEN
As long as the wind speed isn't too high Tuesday, golfers should be able to card a pretty good round.
At least, that was the general consensus among some golfers and coaches when speaking about Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course -- nicknamed "The Fort" -- the site of Tuesday's Class 2A state championships tournament.
Matt Carroll, the boys' golf coach at Ellis High School, has been working with the Kansas State High School Activities Association for years to try and get the state finale in Hays -- at Smoky Hill Country Club. When that didn't work out, Carroll proposed "The Fort," and several coaches he talked to liked the idea.
Pro shop manager Rich Guffey said the course has never hosted an event like this.
"The City of Hays has been great to work with, the convention and visitors' bureau has been awesome. Rich out the course has been great," Carroll said. "It's been a good experience as far as having the help and support to get the thing going. Because it does take a lot of people to put this thing on."
The Fort plays as a Par 72 from the back tees at 6,269 yards with three Par 5s and two Par 3s on the front nine, then three Par 3s and two 5s on the back.
"The course is looking pretty good," said WaKeeney-Trego Community High School sophomore Dion Reetz. The Golden Eagles, a state-qualifying team, had a chance to play the course earlier this week. "If we have a nice day, it should play well. Anyone can have a good day on it," Reetz added.
Water in the creek comes into play on several holes, and greens and fairways are in decent shape, Carroll said, despite the ongoing drought.
"The neat thing is it's basically two nine-hole courses," Carroll said. "The front side is a lot more hills, more trees, more trouble with the creek. The back is pretty open."
Carroll played the course earlier this week as well with Ellis' lone state qualifier and potential top finisher, senior Skyler Tebo. Tebo had not played at Fort Hays for several years before this season when learning it was the site of the state tournament.
"Hit it in the fairway, and you could shoot something good out there," Tebo said.
Carroll also has worked closely with the Hays CVB to put on the tournament. The CVB is supplying competitors with a gift bag and towels.
There also will be a $6 meal for competitors and spectators the day of the tourney.
"What I look for in any tournament is just to make it a memorable experience for the kids," Carroll said. "They may go out and not have a good round, but at least I want them to go out there and have fun."
The course saw several golfers in the past week come in for practice rounds, Guffey said. A round this week was $10 for students and $23 for coaches. Practice rounds are still allowed Monday, but not before 11 a.m., according to the Ellis High School website.