Purchase photos

HHS owns 5A regional





Hays High School golfers Kaden Beilman and Payton Ruder take different approaches to achieve the same results. Ruder -- a sophomore -- is the aggressor, someone just as likely to birdie or eagle a hole as get a double or triple bogey.

On the other hand, Beilman is steady. Birdies are rare for the senior, but so are mistakes. And on Monday at their Class 5A regional, hosted by Hays High at Smoky Hill Country Club, the two proved it doesn't really matter if you play wild or controlled as long as you make the big shots when it matters.

It was also fitting that Beilman and Ruder finished the 18th hole tied atop the leaderboard with a 76, sending the two into a friendly playoff hole that ended with Ruder on top as the regional champion.

"As we were walking back Payton and I were kind of talking about it. We still both shot 76. We still both took first. It's just whoever gets the medal," Beilman said. "It was kind of weird playing a teammate, but I definitely would rather be playing against my teammate for first than someone else."

By the start of the playoff, the pressure was completely off for both golfers. Led by the duo's first-place finishes, Hays High cruised to its second straight regional championship and earned a spot in next week's 5A state tournament at Wichita Country Club.

Hays High's 321 paced the field, with Valley Center's 343 taking second. With a 362, Salina Central earned the third and final qualifying spot for the state tournament.

"After the front nine we only had a seven-stroke lead on Valley Center. And I wasn't very pleased with some of our guys in the front nine, the way they played," Hays High coach Mark Watts said.

"Then Payton came in with a 38, so I was pleased with that. And he's been struggling. He really has been struggling in practices and kind of getting a little wild off the tee. And Kaden's a senior. I know Kaden is going to come through. He was really focused today."

Ruder would equal his first round score of 38 on the back nine, but it didn't come without a major speed bump. He was seemingly in cruise control through most of the tournament, until he hit 4-over par on Hole 15 to put his day in jeopardy.

"I was just going through the motions and getting on the green, two-putting for par, going through the round. Then that happened, so I was finally like, 'OK, I really got to dial it in for these last few holes,' " Ruder said. "Finding out that I had to play against my own teammate in the playoff, it was pretty crazy. I didn't really care who won the playoff because we both tied for first. It doesn't matter."

Beilman and Ruder weren't alone as medalists (top 10) for Hays High. Junior Nathan Romme finished fifth with an 82 and junior Cash Hobson eighth with an 87. Rounding out the Indians' team scoring was senior Chase Lynd's 89 and senior Lane Clark's 93.

Valley Center's Jestin Jackson took third with 78, while Great Bend's Chance Haney was fourth with a 79.

Newton (365), Great Bend (368), Liberal (379) and Salina South (397) rounded out the team scoring.

"I'm never really a guy that just gets a bunch of birdies or is ever a million under par. In fact I didn't even have a birdie today. But I think on the back I had eight pars," said Beilman, who shot 39 on the front and 37 on the back. "I kind of knew that even if I lost the playoff we still took first as a team. That's all that matters to me."