Goodland will play on new course for 4A state
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Goodland High School golf team has delivered an excellent resume in the Class 3A ranks. In 2011, Goodland finished fourth at state. In 2012, the Cowboys won the title on their home course, 20 strokes better than runner-up Sabetha.
Gage Ihrig took 11th as a freshman and then won in 2012. Last year, the Cowboys tied for second at the Class 4A regional, but missed out on taking a team to state when it lost on a tiebreaker. Ihrig tied for fifth at state. His twin brother, Gannon, is a three-time state qualifier who finished fourth in 2012.
Goodland and the Ihrigs will face new competition in Class 4A at the Firekeeper Golf Course near Topeka.
Class "4A is really tough," said coach Terry Daise, in his 10th year -- seventh as head coach --with the Goodland program. "There are some really good schools I believe coming in there. It seems like a lot of the good 4A schools have four or five really good golfers. In 3A, it's usually two or three, so I think the difference is the amount of quality golfers each team has. If we play well, I can't see any reason why we can't get in the top five or so. It's just hard to tell. Our goal was to qualify our team."
None of the Cowboys have played Firekeeper, so Goodland is expected to play practice rounds today and Monday before the state meet starts 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
"That's pretty important to him," Daise said of Ihrig winning away from home. "That's been his goal. He has really been working hard to accomplish that, and I think he is probably as good as anybody in the tournament, so I think he has a good shot at it."
Gage, a Wichita State University signee, and Gannon have been 1-2 for Goodland. Sophomore Taitem Jones and junior Thatcher Jones have been in the three and four slots, and freshman Dillon Gillming has played fifth.
The sixth slot has changed some, but sophomore Carl Mayer earned the place for state. Taitem Jones has improved from high-80s down to the mid-80s in the last year. Thatcher has played up-and-down, but is normally around 89-90. Goodland actually scored better in 2013 and graduated Tanner Jones, the No. 3 golfer who is playing at Kansas Wesleyan.
"When you start out with two players like Gage and Gannon, that's a good start," Daise said.
WSU saw Gage Ihrig play in some summer tournaments and was impressed with his swing and scores.
Ihrig has enjoyed his best scoring average of his career at around 2-over par; Daise called Ihrig's short game "unbelievable" this spring.
"When he misses the green, his chipping and his putting has just been really good," Daise said. "I think his short game has probably improved the most of anything."
Gannon Ihrig, who doesn't plan to continue his golf career in college, has been a strong No. 2. Gannon won one tournament this year and tied Gage in another one. Gage has won six tournaments and is a four-time regional champion.
"I heard both of them say that they are each other's best friends," Daise said. "They get along great. They're ribbing each other every once in awhile."